Scouting the Shockers

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

The Salukis have what may be their toughest test so far this season when the Wichita State Shockers come to town Saturday. 

Wichita State’s successes over the last few years have been well documented. With four straight NCAA tournament appearances, including a Final Four run in 2013, a No. 1 seed in 2014 and a Sweet 16 run last year, the Shockers aren’t shocking anyone anymore.

Wichita State comes into Saturday’s contest at 9-5, but it’s tough to make much of its record. The team is 7-1 over its last eight games.

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Both SIU and Wichita State have started the season 3-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play. The winner of Saturday’s game will be the only 4-0 team in conference, unless Illinois State (9-7, 3-0) can beat Indiana State. 

ESPN reports that Wichita State has the 19th-strongest non-conference schedule out of the 351 Division I teams. SIU’s non-conference schedule ranks 304th.

With a packed house at SIU Arena on Saturday, it will be interesting to see if the battle-tested Shockers will be affected. 

The Shockers are 2-5 against RPI top-100 teams, beating No. 19 Utah and No. 84 Evansville, but losing to No. 14 Iowa, No. 24 USC, No. 39 Seton Hall, No. 58 Alabama and No. 75 Tulsa. The Salukis’ RPI currently sit at No. 103 while Wichita State is at No. 62.

Wichita State was dealing with injuries to senior starters Fred VanVleet and Anton Grady during its losing stretch in the beginning of the season. 

If the Dawgs beat the Shockers, they’d be the “worst” team to do so according to RPI. WSU is 7-0 against teams outside of the top-100 RPI.

There have been been two common opponents between SIU and Wichita State thus far: Saint Louis and Bradley. In these games, the Salukis and Shockers yielded similar results. SIU beat Saint Louis by 13 and Bradley by 21, while Wichita State beat Saint Louis by 15 and Bradley by 27.

The Saluki backcourt will likely have its hands full guarding senior guards Ron Baker and VanVleet. Both are on the 50-man Naismith Award watchlist.

The duo accounts for 26.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. But SIU has a little firepower themselves.

SIU’s guards senior Anthony Beane and junior Mike Rodriguez combine for 31.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.

However, maybe the most dangerous part of the Wichita State lineup is the depth of their bench.

Shocker reserves have accumulated 43.6 percent of the total team minutes so far this season, ninth most in the country. By comparison, SIU’s reserves have played 31.2 percent of total minutes.

Unlike Bradley, SIU’s last opponent, Wichita is extremely careful with the ball, committing 10.8 turnovers a game, which ranks 31st in the country. That, compounded with the 16.7 turnovers forced per game, gives the Shockers the seventh-best turnover margin in Division I at plus-5.9.

For a Saluki team that has the ninth-most turnovers in the conference with 218, Saturday’s game could turn into a nightmare quickly. SIU averages 13.6 turnovers per game.

If there is one way to attack the Shockers, it’s from behind the 3-point line. Wichita has allowed opponents to shoot 36 percent beyond the arc this year, which ranks eighth in the conference.

If the Dawgs can pull off a 3-point performance like they did against Northern Iowa, shooting 59 percent, a Saluki win is attainable.

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3304

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