There was some good, some not so good about Wichita State’s exhibition game Tuesday night against Catawba.
The Shockers won, which is good. For a long time, it wasn’t apparent the Shockers would win, which is not so good.
But given the extreme makeover of the 2018-19 Wichita State basketball team, nothing that happened on the floor at Koch Arena in the team’s only exhibition game was unexpected.
Now the real season is on the cusp with the opener against Louisiana Tech next Tuesday. Then it’s on to Annapolis, Md., to play Providence before a trip to Charleston, S.C., for the Charleston Classic Nov. 15-18.
The college basketball season gets on you in a hurry and the biggest question about these young Shockers is how well they can adapt with such little experience.
Here are nine questions about Wichita State as the Shocks prepare for a second season in the American Athletic Conference:
- How good can Markis McDuffie be? I’m not sure anybody knows. McDuffie has had a bit of a baffling career so far. At times, he plays brilliantly. At times, he doesn’t. A stress fracture in his foot kept McDuffie from his best last season, I’m convinced. This is a huge season for the 6-foot-8 forward, whose aspiration is to reach the NBA. His coaches aspire to see McDuffie lead a young team by example and performance.
- Hey, what about that freshman, Jamarius Burton? Looked pretty good against Catawba, didn’t he? Pretty exciting debut. Made shots, defended, controlled the floor, looked like he’s been doing this for a while. Except that he hasn’t. Burton scored 16 points and played like a veteran. Good stuff.
- Hey, what about that freshman, Dexter Dennis? It’s Dennis who has gotten the most attention of the many Shocker newcomers. The 6-foot-5 forward, though, was a bust in the exhibition game. After it was over, Dennis posted on social media that he was “going back to the drawing board.” Gotta like that.
- “Free Teddy Allen?” T-shirts with those words are starting to pop up around town as Allen, a transfer from West Virginia, awaits word from the NCAA on a hardship waiver that would make him eligible to play this season instead of having to sit out one season. Allen, who played in 35 games for the Mountaineers in 2017-18, is probably the difference in two or three added wins this season. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, he’s a proven scorer. The NCAA could rule on Allen at any moment and has been more lenient in granting these waivers this season.
- Can Samajae Haynes-Jones be consistently good? He played well against Catawba, leading the team in scoring while not turning the basketball over. Haynes-Jones had his moments last season, both good and bad. Probably not enough good, though. The Wichita East/Hutchinson Community College product will be a key.
- How will the ultra-competitive Gregg Marshall handle the struggles that this team will undoubtedly have? The Shockers have been humming along for many seasons, so Marshall isn’t used to losing much. His drive is the reason this team has a better chance of overachieving than it does laying a bunch of eggs. Marshall is a proven teacher and motivator and he’ll get the most out of these Shockers, whatever that is.
- Who plays up front? There are a bunch of candidates: sophomore Asbjorn Midtgaard, junior college transfer Jamie Echenique and freshmen Morris Udeze and Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler. Midtgaard drew the start against Catawba, but has work to do with his defensive quickness. It’ll be interesting to see how Marshall mixes and matches his big guys during the early part of the season and which of the four performs best.
- Which of the freshmen other than Burton and Dennis is most likely to have an impact? Forward Erik Stevenson was solid in the exhibition game. So was Chance Moore. And Udeze has obvious potential. This group has been advertised as Marshall’s best recruiting class ever and includes juco transfers Poor Bear-Chandler, Echenique and guard Ricky Torres. With such a young and inexperienced team, all will receive opportunities. Stevenson looked like a veteran against Catawba and I think he and Moore could step up to held Haynes-Jones and McDuffie as three-point threats.
- What can we expect? Well, there are a lot of factors here. McDuffie is the biggest key. He has to play like a senior, like a leader. Haynes-Jones, too. This has to be the most inexperienced Division I team in the country, yet there’s no reason to think the Shockers can’t be successful. It’s going to depend on how success is defined. The AAC is not going to be as strong as it was last season, either. So if there’s such a thing as a good time to reset, this is probably a good time. If I have to guess at a record, I’ll go with 20-12 and a spot in the NIT. But it could be better than that. The talent is there, it’s just a matter of how quickly Marshall brings it out.