Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
A non-BCS-conference match-up highlights this Monday evening’s slate of games, as #182 Wichita St. (3-4) travel to Fort Worth to face #95 Texas Christian (5-3).
Wichita St’s record is somewhat worse than the Shockers deserve, as their four losses have come by a combined 22 points, including strong showings against Georgetown and Michigan St., while one of their wins came over a prominent mid-major team from last season in Siena. Texas Christian also had a difficult start, finding itself 1-3 early in the season, but has since won five straight, though the only notable win was a 16-point one at Colorado.
The Shockers have only a single player on the roster taller than 6-7, but have managed to be one of the nation’s better rebounding teams, and considering their tough schedule so far, they look like they will be a real handful for teams in the Missouri Valley once conference play begins. Offensively, they need the extra possessions their play on the boards generates, as they turn the ball over a fair amount and get to the line very rarely. They are an average, balanced shooting team, which adds up to an average offense overall. TCU has been strong in perimeter defending, forcing a lot of turnovers and holding their opponents to a low percentage from three. Inside, however, they struggle, without much of a presence on the glass and allowing opponents to shoot over 50% from two. They also are among the worst in the nation in blocks, averaging less than one per game as a team.
Defensively, Wichita St.’s main virtue is again their rebounding, but despite a good presence on the boards they are susceptible to inside scorers. This a slight advantage for TCU, who shoot decently inside but poorly from three, but the Horned Frogs offense as a whole has been quite poor so far. About all TCU does well is get to the line and make shots once they do, as they have bigger turnover problems than the Shockers and don’t crash the offensive glass much.
Wichita St. are a very young team with few returning contributors, but the younger players have really stepped up to spread the scoring around. The main guy has been MVC Newcomer of the Week Clevin Hannah, who started his Shocker career fairly quietly, but has averaged over 20 points in the last three games, and is shooting 40% from behind the arc on the season. His main backcourt partner is freshman Toure’ Murray, who needs to focus on improving his shot selection, as he takes far too many failed attempts. Two big men have been key to the strong rebounding, as senior Ramon Clemente leads the MVC in rebounds, while also shooting a solid 50%, and 7-0 freshman Garrett Stutz comes off the bench for some mildly effective offense, including a 22-point game against Centenary, and contributes some solid board play as well. J.T. Durley is another starter in the frontcourt, but he has struggled to find his shot early in the season.
Senior forward Kevin Langford has led the Horned Frogs in scoring thus far, and his 50% shooting from the field is a major improvement from what he’s done in previous seasons. However, he has regressed somewhat in rebounding and assists, while his high turnover rate persists. His inside counterpart is a 6-9 Croatian, Zvonko Buljan, who has also shot around 50%, but does a much better job on the glass. However, Buljan also struggles with turnovers, sitting at just over 2 per game on a relatively small number of possessions. The Horned Frogs also feature an international shooter, as Lithuanian Edvinas Ruzgas has shot two-thirds of his shots from behind the arc, and hit a very solid 38%, making him an effective scoring option. Junior Jason Ebie runs the offense, and has the best A/TO ratio on either team at 1.6. He’s not a shooter though, so the Horned Frogs should not want possessions to end in his hands. Freshman guard Ronnie Moss has shot well from the outside so far, but does so sparingly, and his inside percentage isn’t too pretty.
While TCU is on a good run of form, and Wichita St. is young, I was really impressed by the Shockers’ play in Orlando. These two teams feature fairly new coaches that are associated with other successful programs, TCU’s Jim Christian from Kent St. and Wichita St.’s Gregg Marshall from Winthrop, so it should be an interesting tactical battle between two bench bosses used to winning, but I think that Marshall’s Shockers will have the confidence from their good showing against high-majors, along with a good advantage on the boards, and will take a tough, slow, low-scoring road win.
Winner: Wichita St. Margin: 3-7
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.
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About Evan Dorey
Evan Dorey - Game Previews
A recent university graduate from Markham, Ontario, who loves analyzing the statistics of sports in general, and college basketball in particular.