Nonconference play opens with game against Charleston Southern


Redshirt junior Zach Bush cheers on his teammates during an exhibition game against Hawai’i Pacific on Saturday at Charles Koch Arena. The Shockers defeated the Sharks 91-57.

Evan Pflugradt

The men’s basketball team will open its pre-conference season Friday against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers are coming off its best finish in program history. It rolled through the Big South conference for 13 wins, adding to its 19-win season last year. Charleston Southern tied for first place in the Big South regular-season title last season.

Charleston Southern last played in the National Invitational Tournament in a loss to Old Dominion, the program’s second post-season bid. Head coach Barclay Radebaugh is the winningest coach at Charleston Southern. Radebaugh amassed 70 victories in four seasons and is the reigning Big South Coach of the Year. He is the seventh winningest coach in Big South conference history.

Five Buccaneer seniors graduated from the program’s most successful roster last season, including Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper. Harper averaged 30 minutes per game his senior season, and Nimley led the team, averaging 36 minutes per game.

The Buccaneers will rely heavily on newcomers as they try to reload with freshmen and junior college transfers. Guard Demetrius Pollard is expected to be the biggest addition and is likely to take over point-guard duties. The junior transfer from Northeastern averaged nine points a game in his sophomore season with the Huskies.

As with any team coached by Radebaugh, the three-point shot will be a major factor. Charleston Southern has ranked 11th or better nationally in three-pointers made in a game and three-pointers attempted the last three seasons. The Buccaneers ranked 11th in three-point shots attempted per game, averaging 27.3 attempts and third in three-pointers made per game, averaging 9.3 made three-pointers last season.

Charleston Southern also ranked 38th nationally last season for points scored, averaging 73.5 points per game. It marked the fourth straight season the Bucs finished inside the top-40 in that category.

The Shockers will be challenged to protect the shooting perimeter early, and often. Fortunately for the Shockers, it will play to their strengths — defending the perimeter with experienced guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet.

“I don’t think we can minimize the defensive prowess of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet,” head coach Gregg Marshall said. “There were times last year where a guy was scoring, and I would put either Ron or Fred on him and they would shut him down a bit.”

The Shockers will get first sight of VanVleet as he is expected to return to the starting lineup Friday; VanVleet did not participate in last week’s exhibition versus Hawai’i Pacific because of a strained hamstring. VanVleet averaged 32 minutes for the Shockers last season.

Wichita State is 2-0 all time against Charleston Southern with their last matchup in 2012 when the Shockers defeated the Buccaneers 65-53. The Shockers also defeated CSU the season before, 85-57.

The Shockers will battle it out with the Buccaneers at 7 p.m. Friday at Charles Koch Arena.