"My contract states that my job is to make sure that the Wichita State basketball program is taken care of. We win as much as we can, we graduate people and we do it in a first class way with integrity. So, if the conference benefits from that, great. If not, I’m not going to apologize for that either."
---Shocker coach Gregg Marshall on whether his team’s dominance has been a good or bad thing for the Valley
As you might guess, all that anyone is talking about here is Wichita State which you’d think would become tiresome for the rest of the rank and file—of course the response to those is—‘just go ahead and beat them’. It’s hard to begrudge the Shocker’s the attention they’re commanding and at least one Valley coach is right on board with that:
“Every night somebody is talking about Wichita State for the Missouri Valley Conference, I couldn’t be any happier. What they have done by continuing to play loose and play hard and share the ball, it’s just remarkable what they’ve achieved”.
---Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson on the ‘Shocker effect’ in the MVC
Traditionally tough trip---
Gregg Marshall may be the three-time MVC Coach of the Year but his teams are just 7-6 in St. Louis. He was kicked out of his first game here, the next season his club came from double digits down late against Creighton to take the lead and appeared to have won. But 1.9 seconds were put back on the clock—Jay’s star Booker Woodfox fumbled the inbounds pass, recovered, dribbled twice and somehow got the winning shot off in what is still the two longest ticks of the clock in the history of time. The Shocks have been in the finals here two of the last four years, but they’ve yet to win it.
St. Louis has been tough on the Shockers, but the truth is that Valley Tournaments and Wichita State have never gotten along particularly well. Wichita State has only won two titles, none since 1987. Tulsa hasn’t even been in the Valley in 17 years and they’ve won it four times. Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Indiana State have all won more than WSU. Only Drake, Missouri State and Evansville have won fewer, in fact, the Shockers have the longest tourney championship drought in the league. Weird.
Evansville won the right to face the Shockers with a 69-61 win over Drake. DJ Ballentine had 30 points in the win. The All-Conference pick averaged 22.5 points in two games against WSU shooting 42 percent. The Shockers did a really nice job keeping him off the line, allowing him just four trips a game instead of the eight a game he averages for the season. Tekele Cotton will get the assignment, so it’ll be fun to watch the conference’s best defensive player against its biggest offensive star.
Ballentine gets the headlines but Egidijus Mockevicius is the guy that makes the Aces dangerous. The 6’10 sophomore had 19 points and 10 boards against Drake, the same numbers he had against the Shockers in a 16 point loss at Evansville two weeks ago. The Lithuanian has had a double-double in six of his last nine starts and is, arguably, the most improved player in the Valley from the start of the season to finish.
Head coach Marty Simmons starts three sophomores and two freshmen so their time is coming---the Shockers hope that time isn’t today.
--The Valley’s preseason poll got the top four teams in order
--Since 2010 Wichita St. has won 117 conference games, 40 more than both Indiana State and Northern Iowa and the second most in college basketball
--Since Gregg Marshall arrived at Wichita State the Shockers are number six nationally in rebound differential, no other Valley team is the nation’s top 100
--Wichita State led the Valley in 15 of the 21 measurable team stats