We've already set the stage for our Game of the Week and Ben Miraski has given his view using his HOOPWAR calculations. Today Dan Bogle and Charles Bowles gives us their expert take on the teams they follow.
Wichita State Expert's Take (Dan Bogle)
If you looked at my last Mid-Major Power Rankings you would see I rated St. Louis as second and Wichita State as third. However, at that time my one major reservation concerning the Shockers was their propensity to start slowly and then overwhelm their opponent in the second half. It is not difficult to collect wins that way during an easy early season, but that can bury a team when stronger opponents take control from the beginning. However, WSU was able to get going in the first half against both DePaul and BYU, and both similarly ended in victories.
While St. Louis has a powerful offense in its own right, the Shockers have more players who can take over the game and lead the team in the key moments. Each team is about equal in rebounding ability and defensive prowess (each team currently leads their conference in points allowed), and both are excellent at stealing the ball and not turning it over. There’s no question that both of these teams are evenly matched, but the Shockers in this early season have shown the ability to overpower teams offensively in a way the Billikens have not, and that is their advantage.
Saint Louis Expert's Take (Charles Bowles)
December 1 is a day that touches on the hearts of each and every player on the Saint Louis Billikens. That day a man who was one of the greatest influences on their lives left the earth. That man was coach Rick Majerus. His influence will be felt on the one year anniversary of his death and be a key motivator for this important non-conference game against Wichita State.
The Billikens will be coming off a long and gruling road trip to Cancun, losing to No. 10 Wisconsin and winning against Old Dominion. They struggled against Wisconsin only converting 33% of their shots and had a five minute stretch in the second half where they only scored two points. During the Old Dominion game, the roles reversed as the Billikens took control in the second half and easily defeated the Virginians.
As the team returns home, they will have to adjust quickly to play the No. 12 Wichita State. The Shockers enter Chaifetz Arena undefeated, but this will be a tough road test for the Shockers as the arena fills up when a big name opponent comes to town.
Dwayne Evans has been leading the way for the Billikens this season. Evans has averaged 14.4 points per game this season and nearly got the Billikens back into the Wisconsin game pulling them within five points late in the second half. He is one of the unquestioned leaders of this team. He along with Mike McCall Jr. (11 points per game) and Jordair Jett (10.1 points per game) best display two key elements of the Billikens game which are: defensive intensity and toughness. Defensive is what wins the Billikens games. The Billikens force about 8 steals per game and allow 58 points per game to the opposing team. The team has had a long tradition of strong team defense under former Head Coach Rick Majerus and continues that focus of team defense under Jim Crews.
If the Billikens are going to defeat the Schockers, then they are going to have to rely upon Dwayne Evans scoring early and often. The team will also have to limit the offensive possessions for the Shockers early in the game, force a lot of one and done possessions. Another key is stopping Cleanthony Early, Wichita’s Star forward, as he will create a mismatch for the Billikens frontcourt.
The Billikens will have a lot riding on this game for their season. Their emotions will be high due to the anniversary of Rick Majerus’ death and the importance of the game of their non-conference schedule.