Shockers prepare for AAC Tourney nightcap

Dec, 15, 2018; Wichita, Kansas, USA; Wichita State battled the Southern Miss Eagles at Intrust Bank Arena ©Kelly Ross

MEMPHIS, (WSU release) No. 6 seed Wichita State opens play Thursday night at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. in the Air Force Reserve American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship. First round action against the ECU Pirates tips off at just after 9 p.m. CT on ESPNU.

>>> Shocker Radio streaming will be unavailable in the postseason, but fans outside of the Wichita area can listen to national coverage of all 11 tournament games from Learfield IMG College on Sirius 134/XM channel 202 and via TuneIn on the College Sports Now channel.

OPENING TIPS:

The winner of Thursday night’s WSU-ECU game advances to Friday’s quarterfinal round to face No. 3 seed Temple (8 p.m. CT, ESPNU).
The Shockers swept the regular season series from ECU (by 16 in Greenville and by 17 last Tuesday in Wichita) and lead 3-0 all-time.
This is the Shockers' second American Tournament. A year ago, as the No. 2 seed in Orlando, they defeated No. 7 Temple before falling to No. 3 Houston in the semifinal round.

WSU entered 2018-19 as one of the nation's least-experienced units (10 newcomers; just 11.2% of minutes returning). Markis McDuffie is the only Shocker who saw time in last year's tourney.

Picked eighth, the rebuilding Shockers opened conference play at 1-6 but have been one of The American's hottest teams ever since, winning nine of the last 11 games for a sixth-place finish. WSU's four-game winning streak is the league's longest active.

While they’ll likely need four more wins in four days to extend their string of seven-consecutive NCAA tournaments, a strong showing in Memphis would strengthen the youthful Shockers' case for an NIT bid. WSU has appeared in 10-straight postseasons.

Heading into the week, the Shockers had played a league-best 17 Quadrant I or II games, ahead of UConn (16) and Houston (16).
10 of the team's 30 games have been decided by four-points in either direction. They're 6-4 with three wins on buzzer-beaters.

On Feb. 28, head coach Gregg Marshall recorded his 300th Shocker win (he's 303-111 in 12 seasons). Marshall is now just three wins shy of 500 for his career (497-194, 21st).

WSU has won at least one game in 10-straight conference tourneys. The last "one-and-done" came in Marshall's debut season (2008). Marshall is 18-2 all-time openers.

McDuffie was voted second team all-conference. He ranks among The American's top-10 in scoring (4th, 17.9), free throw percentage (5th, .814) and three-pointers (8th, 2.3). McDuffie is rapidly climing WSU's all-time lists -- 16th in scoring (1,389) and tied for ninth in career threes (144).

Guard Dexter Dennis (7.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 39.4% 3pt) was named to The American's all-freshman team.

Two-time freshman of the week, Jamarius Burton is having an outstanding year of his own. His 3.3 assists and 1.85 A:TO ratio is tops among the league's rookie qualifiers.

Jaime Echenique is the Shockers' leading rebounder (5.9) and ranks among The American's top-five in blocks (4th, 1.5) and field goal percentage (5th, .538).

Senior guard Samajae Haynes-Jones ranks second on the team in scoring (12.2), three-pointers (57) and minutes (32.7).