Wichita St.-Memphis Preview
With a lot of the defensive focus on preseason All-American Fred VanVleet, Wichita State’s other two returning starters realize they have to be ready to step up.
Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker hope to provide further support as the 11th-ranked Shockers face another early challenge.
Wichita State seeks its nation-best 33rd straight regular-season victory Tuesday in Sioux Falls, S.D., where it takes on a Memphis team looking to put a shocking exhibition loss behind it when it opens its season as part of ESPN’s 24-hour College Hoops Marathon.
VanVleet appears likely to receive plenty of attention from the opposition after averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 41.8 from 3-point range en route to the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors in 2013-14.
The star guard was limited to six points in Friday’s opener, but contributed a school record-tying seven steals in a 71-54 home win over Western Athletic Conference favorite New Mexico State.
The defensive-minded Cotton provided a spark with 17 points and Baker added 16 as the Shockers shot 49.2 from the field despite missing all 11 of their 3-point attempts.
"There’s a lot of attention on (VanVleet) and I have to be that guy to bring some help or do what I got to do because I can play as well," Cotton said. "We all can (contribute) as a unit, but I have to stay aggressive every game."
Coach Gregg Marshall also hopes to keep getting key contributions from his six newcomers – including five freshmen – off the bench. Forward Shaquille Morris led the reserves with nine points in 12 minutes.
"I can’t really tell what the difference is in some of these kids in terms of what they bring to the table," Marshall said. "I tell them that if you’re not able to go 100 percent in every phase of the game, I’ll just go on to the next guy."
Marshall’s club has won by an average of 15.5 points during the nation’s longest active regular-season winning streak. The Shockers look to extend the run against Memphis, which hasn’t dropped its opener since the last time it opened at a neutral site in 2003.
The Tigers lost Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford, the tandem that made up their starting backcourt for most of the past four years, along with 3-point threat Michael Dixon Jr. Starters Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols return from a team that went 24-10 and won one NCAA tournament game, but it seems like Josh Pastner’s club might have a few growing pains ahead.
It already got one out of the way in a 74-70 overtime exhibition loss to Division II Christian Brothers last Wednesday.
"Well just like anything else in life, it’s preparation," said guard Kedren Johnson, a transfer from Vanderbilt who averaged 13.5 points for the Commodores in 2012-13. "We have to go back, watch film, look at our mistakes and try our best to correct those. We will study Wichita State and go there, and we’ll see what we can do."
Goodwin is the highest scorer of Memphis’ returning starters after averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds last season, while Nichols was named the AAC’s Rookie of the Year after scoring 9.3 per game.
They’ll go up against a Wichita State defense that forced 20 Aggies turnovers on Friday.
These teams, who were previously MVC rivals from ’67-68 through ’72-73, haven’t met since an 85-73 Memphis home win over the Shockers in 1983.
Memphis has won five of its last eight regular-season matchups against ranked opponents.