McGill: Herd Set for First NCAA Clash in 31 Years
The Word on the Herd
By Chuck McGill
SAN DIEGO – The first two full days of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament – Thursday and Friday – will feature 32 games involving 64 teams. The matchup here inside San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena between East Region No. 13 seed Marshall (24-10) and fourth seed Wichita State (25-7) will be the only one of those games featuring teams within the top 20 nationally in scoring offense.
The Thundering Herd is No. 11 nationally in scoring offense, No. 8 in 3-pointers attempted and No. 7 in possession per game. The Shockers are tied at No. 18 nationally in scoring, at 83.0 points per game.
“I’m not sure play as fast as them,” Wichita State sophomore and leading scorer Landry Shamet said Thursday. “They’ll come down and take the first semi-open look they get.”
The TNT televised game, which starts at 1:20 p.m. EST (10:20 a.m. here on the West Coast) won’t be the Shockers’ first brush with an up-tempo style this season. They faced Savannah State, Oklahoma and South Dakota State, all of which rank in the top six nationally in scoring offense.
Wichita State defeated two of the three.
“Teams that get up and shoot 3s, we struggled with all three of them,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. “It’s hard to guard. When they play at that tempo and have that type of skill across the front line and into the backcourt it’s difficult to guard. You have to be a tremendous defensive team. We didn’t do a great job against any of them but we outscored two of them.”
Marshall, a former assistant coach for the Herd, is being modest. Wichita State defeated Savannah State, the No. 2 scoring team in the nation, 112-66 on Nov. 28. Savannah State attempted 80 shots, 55 of which were 3-pointers. The Shockers held their opponents to 27.5 percent shooting from the floor and 23.6 percent from 3-point range in the 46-point win.
Two games later, Wichita State defeated South Dakota State, 95-85. In that game, the Shockers had to overcome a 50-42 halftime deficit. South Dakota State found success from outside – 14 of 29 from 3 – and shot 50 percent for the game.
Wichita State lost to Oklahoma, 91-83, as All-American point guard Trae Young scored 29 points and dished out 10 assists for the Sooners. Again, the Shockers trailed at halftime – this time by 15 points – and chipped away at the deficit but couldn’t complete the comeback.
The Wichita State coach said he will have his team prepared for the Herd from the opening tip.
“Marshall has our full, undivided attention,” Marshall said.
Marshall will play an NCAA tournament game for the first time in 31 years and four days on Friday. There will likely not be a senior starter in the Herd’s lineup, either.
Wichita State, meanwhile, will be playing in its seventh consecutive NCAA tournament. For the fifth-year seniors on the Shockers’ roster, this will be their 11th NCAA tournament game.
The gap in experience didn’t escape Jon Elmore, Marshall’s star junior guard who has made 93 consecutive starts.
“It’s a matter of focus,” Elmore said. “With our young guys and early on in the season we had our bumps. But as the season progressed you see those young guys learning, they’re sharper, they’re more fluid in what we do. You look at a team like Wichita, just veterans, they have that program history where they come in every year and they expect to win, they expect to make that run in the tournament.”
Of Wichita State’s top 10 players, according to minutes played, there are six seniors, two juniors and two sophomores. Two of the seniors are in their fifth year. One of the sophomores is also a third year player, so only one true freshman or sophomore receives significant playing time.
Eight teams will participate in four games inside the 12,414-seat Viejas Arena on Friday. Following Marshall-Wichita State will be No. 5 West Virginia (24-10) and No. 12 Murray State (26-5). The nightcap will be Midwest Region teams: No. 4 Auburn (25-7) vs. No. 13 College of Charleston (26-7); No. 5 Clemson (23-9) vs. No. 12 New Mexico State (28-5).
The Mountaineers and Racers are scheduled to tip at 4 p.m., EST (1 p.m. at the tournament site). The Midwest Region session is set to begin at 7:27 p.m., EST (4:27 p.m. at the tournament site).