“They’re a difficult team to play against.  They’re so physically strong and they play so, so hard.  They share the basketball, they’re very talented but they really share it.  They do all the little things and I think that’s what makes them even more special”.

---Evansville coach Marty Simmons on Wichita State

Turning up the heat---

It’s odd that you shoot 51 percent from the floor and score 80 points and you’re talking about the Shockers defensive effort yesterday against Evansville.  Eleven blocks is a new Valley single game record, six of them from Kadeem Coleby was a new career high.  It remains to be seen how effective the Shocker big men will be defensively against bigger more athletic players in the NCAA’s, the type of players they really haven’t seen since last December, but they’ve been difference makes in the MVC.

Protecting the rim---

Having great shot blockers allows a defense to extend and take more chances jumping passing lanes to create turnovers and easy transition baskets.  If an opposing guard gets by a defender taking a chance, he’s got one or more of those three bigs waiting for him. Think about how many points you’re saving at the rim when you block 11 shots.  Coleby, Chadrack Lufile and Darius Carter had great games yesterday combining for 21 points, 17 rebounds and eight blocks.

Villian or hero?

As you’d expect, Wichita State’s fan base is dominating in St. Louis, which made me wonder how the rest of the conference’s fans would react to the Shockers.  Oddly, the only one’s cheering against them yesterday were a handful of Evansville followers.  Maybe that will change as the weekend continues, but I’m getting the impression that Valley fans kind of understand the plight of the conference and are pulling for the Shocks to uphold their honor.  It’s odd; usually Wichita State is the team that others love to hate over here.

Poking the Bear—

Missouri State won an offensively challenged game against Illinois State to win the right to face the Shockers for a third time.  The two played a week ago in Wichita with the Shockers claiming a 23 point blowout in a game where they were never pushed.  Wait a minute, when are the Shockers ever pushed?  Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk lamented not having the type of athletes to play against the Shockers after last weeks, I wonder if he’s found any in the last seven days. 

It’s a shame that the Bears don’t have Marcus Marshall; the talented point guard went down with a season-ending injury against WSU in Springfield and the Bears have only played .500 basketball since and yet, they’re still a twenty game winner.  I just don’t think the Bears have the offense to play with the Shockers; they’ve only score 98 points in their last two starts.

Southern Illinois made a Friday appearance in St. Louis for the first time in four years last night and they made it count against Northern Iowa which had been the second hottest team in the Valley coming in.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Southern Illinois beat Indiana State tomorrow and see them as a dangerous team moving forward. I know that sounds ridiculous considering that they’re a 14-18 team, but Barry Hinson’s team plays an active 2-3 zone and in Desmar Jackson and Anthony Beane have two dynamic scorers. We’ll see.

By the way, the last time that Northern Iowa won a game at Arch Madness was in the championship game against the Shockers in 2010, since then they’ve gone 0-4.