Memphis will face road opponent Wichita State in one of the more hostile environments in the country on Thursday. The young Shockers (12-1), led by Gregg Marshall are out to prove themselves and have done a solid job towards that goal this season. Last Saturday, they waxed an Ole Miss team that the Tigers barely beat at home earlier in the season. This game will be a huge test for Penny Hardaway’s Tigers. They will show the nation whether they are going to lay down after losing a star player and a game at home, or rather pull themselves together and work towards a spotless conference record.
Memphis’ second leading scorer, DJ Jeffries, should be back in action after missing the Georgia game with an illness. However, it was reported by Drew Hill of the Daily Memphian that now Damion Baugh — Jeffries’ roommate — is also experiencing flu-like symptoms. Hopefully both these players are feeling well enough to play because the Tigers’ frontcourt is already very thing and both Baugh and Jeffries are strong rebounders for Memphis.
Currently, Wichita State is projected out as a 5 seed in the NCAA tournament by Joe Lunardi. Memphis has fallen to a 6 seed projection after their home loss to Georgia. From the KenPom side of things, the Shockers are a few slots higher than the #38 Tigers. The computers are likely more fond of WSU due to a stronger strength of schedule.
When the AP poll updates dropped Monday, Memphis fans were outraged to see their team drop from 9th to 21st, which is two positions higher than the 23rd ranked Shockers. Projected as the #4 team in AAC pre-season polls, Wichita State has started out the season hot and looks to get back to the NCAA tournament after a NIT semifinal appearance in 2019.
To date, the only blemish on the Shocker’s resume is a neutral court loss to West Virginia. They claimed wins against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and VCU.
Sophomore guard Dexter Dennis has rejoined the WSU squad after taking a few weeks off for personal reasons. He played against Ole Miss and failed to make an impact in a small amount of floor time. Dennis was projected by many as the guy who would carry this Shockers team in his second season.
WSU has declared this game a “black-out” game for this key matchup. This is the first of these games in 7 years, so you know that this game has been highly anticipated by not just fans but players and administration as well.
WSU Roster Rundown
Erik Stevenson – 6’3” sophomore guard. The Shockers’ top scorer has scored in double figures in ten out his fourteen appearances this season. In addition to putting up points, Stevenson also averages a pair of steals per game and a steal rate in the top 75 in the country.
Trey Wade – 6’6” junior forward from Marietta, Georgia is a beast on the boards and hauls in 6.8 rebounds per game.
Jamarius Burton – A sophomore wing, Burton is one of the trio of Shockers who averages double figures in scoring with 10.5 per game. He also leads the team in assists with nearly 4 per game and has an assist rate good for the top 100 players in the country.
Tyson Etienne – Listed at 6’1’’, Etienne is a small, quick guard who is a sniper from the outside (43% on 5.6 3PA per game), but he also can get to the paint and cause trouble.
Jaime Echenique – The 6’11’’ senior center doesn’t fill up the stat sheet, but anyone of his size is a threat to the Tigers’ smaller guards when they drive. We saw against Georgia some of the hesitation by Alex Lomax when getting close to the bucket. This slight uncertainty in decision making led to several turnovers or missed floaters in the paint.
Wichita St. Strengths
Defense – The Shockers are top 20 in defensive efficiency, only allowing 85 points per 100 possessions.
Offensive Rebounding – WSU is top 10 in potential points off second chances. The Shockers are a strong offensive rebounding team, but like I mentioned last week, the Tigers have systematically improved in limiting their opponents offensive rebounding.
Wichita St. Weaknesses
Shooting – Gregg Marshall’s team only has earned a 49% EFG, which makes them an average team from the field. Wichita State has a few guys capable of hitting from deep, but overall, that is not their bread and butter. This doesn’t mean that they can be given wide open looks (anyone remember the Georgia game?) but a healthy dose of forcing outside shots should favor Memphis.
Keys to the game
Take shots early and often – You probably are aware that I am a firm proponent of fast break opportunities from this Tigers team. If they play too much half court basketball against a well-coached Gregg Marshall team, things won’t be good.
Precious Achiuwa – I’m tired of hoping that the Tigers will get hot from beyond the arc. Memphis has managed to shoot over 35% from beyond the arc just 5 times out of 14 games — with at least two of those showings against terrible defenses. Feed the big man down low and let him carry the team on his shoulders. Achiuwa has shot better than 50% from the field in each of the last four games, so you can’t go wrong wish dishing him the rock. This is his only year in Tiger Blue, so let’s give him the chance to show-out.
More College Hoops Content
- Theater In College Hoops (Ep. 46)
- Backdoor Cut (Ep. 55) – MEMPHIS TIGERS fall to Georgia in grueling fashion
- Scouting Report: Anthony Edwards and Georgia at Memphis
- Theater In College Hoops (Ep. 45) – Big name injuries, PC is dead, OSU/Kentucky
Zak (@BarnBurnerBro) is a native Memphian who covers the Memphis Grizzlies, Tigers, and St. Louis Cardinals for The Barn. He spends his free time exploring breweries, restaurants, and leading the Ivan Rabb stan club.