Hopper: Next year the Shockers should be even better
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This season had many names before it began: the beginning of the post-Baker-and-VanVleet era, a rebuilding year, the chance for the Missouri Valley to finally be up for grabs.
Instead, the Shockers finished 30-4, won the MVC tournament and now hold an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. After being bested on the road by the other top MVC team, Illinois State, the Shockers answered with two resounding victories by 41 and 20 points.
The Shockers have clearly established themselves not only as ruler of the MVC – but with a no. 20 AP poll ranking and No. 10 KenPom ranking — as a national presence in the world of college basketball.
Many speak of this being the post-Baker and post-VanVleet era but with seven juniors — none of whom is averaging less than fifteen minutes a game — it is possible we have stumbled upon a new, fleeting era of collected veterans.
Conner Frankamp, Shaq Morris, Zach Brown, RashardKelly, Rauno Nurger, Darral Willis Jr. and Daishon Smith will all be seniors next year. Of course, there will also be the younger guys such as Markis McDuffie and Landry Shamet, who lead the team in scoring this year and will look to continue.
Regardless of how the team finishes this year, they’ll look to pick up next year with the same structure and rotations.
In the MVC tournament, the Shockers really showed what they can do. Frankamp averaged 15 points on his way to earning Most Outstanding Player of Arch Madness. Morris showed when he’s not in foul trouble, he’s a scorer with 21 points against Missouri State.
Against Bradley, Willis scored 17 points in 14 minutes. The Shockers displayed their traditional defensive nature against Illinois State, only allowing the redbirds to shoot just over 29 percent from the field, with the Redbirds averaging 43 percent from the field on the season.
Next year, the Shockers should be even better. It will be the same team, with more experience and more chemistry. On the offensive side, they’ll hope to continue the success with contributions from everyone; this year they had five guys averaging over nine points a game, last year they had two.
Defensively, they should be the same as always: very good. I would expect to see the press, as it did help in some situations this year.
As excitement around March Madness only grows, it’s hard to focus on anything else. However, unlike last year there will be no questions, no ambiguity, no “What are we going to do next?” after the tournament. Whether the Shockers are ousted in the Round of 64 or hoisting the trophy in April, they’ll all be back next year. And they’ll be better.