Why Wichita State will place better than eighth in the conference


Joseph Barringhaus

Wichita State’s Dexter Dennis gets fouled during their game against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 6, 2018 in Koch Arena.

At the American Athletic Conference media day, Wichita State was picked to finish eighth in the conference for men’s basketball.

It’s well-known that this is one of the youngest teams in the entire country. The Shockers are only bringing back 11.2 minutes from a year ago and are bringing in Gregg Marshall’s largest incoming class of newcomers. However, even accounting for the inexperience, this WSU team will finish better than eighth.

Opposing view: Why Wichita State will finish eighth or lower in the AAC

This year’s team is led by seniors Markis McDuffie and Samajae Haynes-Jones.

McDuffie is healthy and striving to get back on NBA draft boards. During his sophomore season, McDuffie led the team in points and rebounding, so he will be the one to go to in late-game situations.

Haynes-Jones flashed his scoring abilities last season, posting 27 points against Arkansas State and 31 points against Savannah State. The offensive explosiveness is there for the Shocker senior class, but the newcomers will have to pick up some slack.

Last season was one of Gregg Marshall’s worst defensive teams. Athletically, this team can be better on the defensive end than last year’s squad, and that’s how they’re going to have to win some of their games.

Two newcomers who can make an immediate impact on defense for the Shockers are Jamarius Burton and Dexter Dennis.

Burton is a matchup nightmare on both offense and defense. Standing at 6-4 and weighing 208 pounds, Burton can play the 1-3 spots on the floor. He’s quick, has great lateral movement, and can bring the defense right out of the gate for the Shockers.

Dennis is a freak athlete as well. He can jump out of the gym, and even though he’s a guard, he can probably handle himself when taken into the paint. He made good decisions during the Black and Yellow scrimmage on the defensive end, can space himself well on offense, and can knock down the mid-range shot in transition.

The Shockers have the talent to outperform their projections. Freshman post Morris Udeze showed impressive rebounding abilities down low during the scrimmage and can move up and down the floor. Chance Moore can set the arena on fire when he gets hot from deep — he displayed tremendous range during the scrimmage.

The talent level is there for the Shockers. It all comes down to when they figure out how to play together.

Lastly, there is no way Temple and SMU finish ahead of Wichita State in the conference standings. Kenpom has the Shockers winning their matchup with Temple and splitting the season series with SMU. WSU has more all-around talent than either team.

This Shocker team may be undersized, young, and inexperienced, but they’re going to finish better than eighth. If they do finish higher than projected, expect to see them in the tournament come March.