Arizona Basketball

Get ready to hear national media types hype Wichita State over Arizona

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(ESPN GRAPHIC)

(ESPN GRAPHIC)

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You can expect to hear about it and read about it from now until Thursday night at about 6:20 p.m.: The Shockers will shock Arizona.

Wichita State will not only beat Arizona but survive until the Sweet 16. You’ll hear it. Brace yourself.

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall takes no back seat to a Power 5 coach with the Shockers’ 2013 Final Four appearance. The Shockers are a mid-major with a major attitude, one of unbridled confidence. You’ll know all about it by when the teams play at Providence, R.I., in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“Arizona has to travel across the country,” Marshall said emphatically to the Shockers in the locker room after their 70-50 win over Vanderbilt Tuesday night, moving his left arm across his body pointing to the right as if coursing Arizona’s flight pattern.

“We only have to travel half way. We’ll be ready.”

Marshall then screamed as loud as his players when they broke into a chant.

No trepidation there.

Wichita State is like Arizona during the Nick JohnsonSolomon Hill years — Steady, heady and ready on defense. Remember all those games in the 50’s and 60’s two to three years ago?

The Shockers held Vanderbilt to 50 points while outscoring the Commodores 20-2 over the last 8:42. Kevin Stallings’ team missed their last 13 shots from the field.

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NO. 6 ARIZONA (25-8) VS.
NO. 11 WICHITA STATE (25-8)

Series record: 1-1 (last meeting 1954)

Neutral court: First game

Coaches: Arizona — Sean Miller 307-107 (12th year) vs. Wichita State — Gregg Marshall 423-167 (19th year).

Leading scorers: Arizona — PF Ryan Anderson (15.2 ppg). Wichita State — SG Ron Baker (14.2)

Leading rebounders: Arizona — Anderson (10.8 rpg). Wichita State — Baker (4.8).

Leaders in assists: Arizona — Kadeem Allen (3.6 apg). Wichita State — Fred VanVleet (5.7).

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“I thought our guards neutralized them,” Marshall said noting that Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and reserve guard Conner Frankamp were too much for Vanderbilt’s size with three 7-footers including NBA prospect Damian Jones.

VanVleet’s stat line against Vanderbilt is dreamy to a coach like Sean Miller, a similar nuts-and-bolts point guard who was an impeccable leader at Pitt: 14 points, seven assists and only one turnover in 34 minutes.

Baker had 14 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Although a 6’4″ guard, Baker is Wichita State’s team leader as a rebounder. Gabe York is coming off a loss against Oregon in which he did not have a rebound in the second half.

Frankamp added eight points with two three-pointers during Wichita State’s game-clinching run at the end.

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“I have faith in my shooters, and ultimately, you know, our success or failure in Providence, R.I., now is going to be determined by us being able to knock down some shots,” Marshall said. “Arizona … I haven’t seen them on film yet. I’ve been concentrating on Vanderbilt, one game at a time. We have done some advanced scouting, but I assume they’ve got some pretty big guys, too.”

Assume? He knows Arizona has 7-foot imposing senior Kaleb Tarczewski and 6-9 double-double machine Ryan Anderson manning the frontcourt with 7-footer Dusan Ristic coming off the bench and also Mark Tollefsen, a wiry and active player at 6’9″ who is always capable of having a good game.

Marshall’s undaunted demeanor exudes confidence that rubs off on his players, namely his senior leaders in VanVleet and Baker, who channel that energy through their teammates.

Arizona has not directly crossed paths with Marshall before, but he was an architect of the College of Charleston team during Arizona’s 1997 title run that put a serious scare into Lute Olson’s team. Marshall was the lead assistant under Charleston coach John Kresse before leaving to be an assistant at Marshall entering that season.

That pesky Charleston team led by Anthony Johnson, Jermel President and 6’8″ center Thaddeus Delaney — players Marshall recruited — hung tough with Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and Co. before losing 73-69 in the second round.

“It was more his team than anybody else’s,” Kresse told the Wichita Eagle when the Shockers prepared for the 2013 Final Four. “Without Gregg, I don’t know if we would have made that transition.”

Thursday night’s game will not be easy for Arizona. Wichita State is not a typical No. 11 seed with its experience in the NCAA tournament. Is VanVleet in his 10th year of eligibility?

Here’s a stat: Baker and VanVleet have each played in a combined 22 NCAA tournament games including Tuesday’s game against Vanderbilt. Arizona’s total from its starting lineup of York, Tarczewski, Anderson, Kadeem Allen and Allonzo Trier: 20 games.

With tough, experienced guards who are winners, Wichita State won’t go down quietly. The Shockers beat Utah by 17 at home and lost to USC by only three points without an injured VanVleet during a holiday tournament in Orlando.

Arizona better come prepared. Get used to hearing about that over the next two days. The Wildcats must have it in them to have the final say.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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