Alabama-Wichita St. Preview
With three starters back from a 30-win team that reached the round of 16, Wichita State was expected to continue the success it has had under coach Gregg Marshall.
The Shockers, however, are in an unfamiliar position following an injury to their senior leader.
Fred VanVleet is expected to be sidelined Friday when No. 20 Wichita State looks to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time in 33 months against Alabama in the consolation round of the AdvoCare Invitational at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
With their top two scorers, VanVleet and Ron Baker, and fellow starting guard Evan Wessel returning, the Shockers (2-2) carried a top 10 ranking into the season following their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under Marshall in 2014-15.
After winning 65 of 71 games in the previous two seasons, the promise of another blistering start subsided in the opener Nov. 13 when VanVleet twisted his ankle in the early moments of an 88-63 win over Charleston Southern. The All-America candidate then struggled through a sore hamstring four days later, finishing with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting in a 77-67 loss at Tulsa.
Wichita State eased past Division II Emporia State without VanVleet on Saturday, but dropped its second November game for the first time in four years with a 72-69 loss to USC in Thursday's opening round. Baker had 25 points and hit 6 of 10 from 3-point range, while Markis McDuffie scored 14.
''We're banged up," Baker said. ''We've got to capitalize on our runs."
With VanVleet expected to miss the rest of the tournament, Baker hopes to keep playing well with a team-high 21.5 points per game and 13-of-30 (43.3 percent) shooting from 3-point range. Anton Grady, second on the team in scoring at 10.5 per game, has totaled 12 on 5-of-15 shooting in his last two.
Making matters worse, Landry Shamet is sidelined for at least 10 weeks because of a stress fracture in his foot. The promising freshman guard was averaging 8.7 points in his first three games.
The Shockers, who are likely to fall out of the Top 25, will try to avoid dropping back-to-back games for the first time since losing to Evansville on Feb. 27 and then Creighton on March 2, 2013.
They could get it done against an Alabama team that hasn't been competitive when facing tougher competition. The Crimson Tide have beaten Kennesaw State and Louisiana-Lafayette by a total of 25 points but have also lost to Dayton and Xavier by a combined 51.
Alabama (2-2) has particularly scuffled offensively in those contests, averaging just 46.5 points on 30.4 percent shooting while committing 38 turnovers. Shannon Hale and Justin Coleman were the only players to score in double figures with 10 on Thursday when the Tide went 5 for 28 (17.9 percent) from 3-point range in a 64-45 loss to the 23rd-ranked Musketeers.
Retin Obasohan has totaled 35 points on 11-of-18 shooting in the two victories, but has scored a combined nine while missing 14 of 16 field-goal attempts in the two defeats.
'''When we've had a game like this, we seem to bounce back," coach Avery Johnson said.
Although the Shockers have taken three of four meetings over the past four years, they had to rally from an 11-point deficit with 5:50 remaining in a 53-52 home victory Dec. 16, 2014.