Daily Egyptian

Scouting Wichita State

Coach+Barry+Hinson+talks+to+his+players+Saturday%2C+Jan.+21%2C+2017%2C+during+SIU%27s+58-57+loss+against+the+Northern+Iowa+Panthers+at+SIU+Arena.+%28Luke+Nozicka+%7C+%40lukenozicka%29
Coach Barry Hinson talks to his players Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, during SIU's 58-57 loss against the Northern Iowa Panthers at SIU Arena. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Coach Barry Hinson talks to his players Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, during SIU's 58-57 loss against the Northern Iowa Panthers at SIU Arena. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

Coach Barry Hinson talks to his players Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, during SIU's 58-57 loss against the Northern Iowa Panthers at SIU Arena. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

By Sean Carley

SIU men’s basketball — on a three-game losing streak — faces at 6 p.m. Tuesday the most daunting task in the Missouri Valley Conference: going up against Wichita State in Charles Koch Arena.

In mid-major college basketball, very few teams remain prominent for an extended period of time. But there is a select group — Gonzaga, San Diego State and Saint Mary’s to name a few — that ignore that sentiment.

Wichita State is among those teams. The Shockers don’t rebuild, they simply reload.

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WSU enters Tuesday’s matchup at 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the MVC. The Shockers challenged themselves once again in nonconference play, facing Louisville, Michigan State and Oklahoma State, among others.

While they don’t have the marquee upset that has almost become tradition, they have handled business accordingly.

Wichita’s only loss in the last nine games came when the team traveled to what’s arguably the second-toughest place to play in the Valley: Illinois State.

Last season’s team, which was within a couple possessions of the Sweet 16. was led by guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Both have since departed for the NBA, but that hasn’t slowed Coach Gregg Marshall’s squad.

2016 MVC Freshman of the Year, forward Markis McDuffie, is back and leading the team with 12.3 points and five rebounds per game. Junior college transfer Darral Willis Jr. is in serious contention with Missouri State’s Alize Johnson for Newcomer of the Year with 11.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

The two lead a renaissance of a Shocker frontcourt that is taking the spotlight left by Baker and VanVleet’s departure. Four of WSU’s top five leading scorers are forwards or centers, but they’re not traditional big men that park in the paint.

McDuffie, junior forward Zach Brown and junior center Rauno Nurger are all competent 3-point shooters with marks above 30 percent.

Hardly any of the Shockers’ individual numbers will jump off the page, but that is because Marshall uses his team’s depth to its full advantage. Marshall’s rotation runs 10 men deep, with only three averaging more than 20 minutes per game but all 10 averaging at least 13 minutes per game. Even beyond that, all 16 players on the roster played in at least half of the team’s games this year.

SIU has struggled against Wichita State since its rise to prominence, losing seven straight. Going to the sunflower state hasn’t been friendly to the Salukis either as they haven’t won in Wichita since 2011.

Last year’s matchup in Koch Arena was a 21-point decimation that wasn’t much of a contest for long, and looking at the two teams’ momentum, it may take the performance of the year to stop another Saluki loss from repeating.

Sports writer Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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