No shocker if Wichita State returns to Final Four

ASSOCIATED PRESS Fred VanVleet , of Wichita State, is one of nation's top point guards.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Fred VanVleet , of Wichita State, is one of nation's top point guards.
Posted: March 06, 2014

IF YOU DON'T think Wichita State can get back to the Final Four, you either a) have not watched the Shockers play, or b) don't know much about basketball.

I find the whole debate about Wichita silly. If going unbeaten in the regular season was easy, it would have been done more than twice in the last 23 seasons.

I think Wichita is going to be 36-0 when they play in the Sweet 16. It is pretty clear nobody in the Missouri Valley can beat them so the Shockers are going to win "Arch Madness" in Saint Louis. I can't imagine a 16 seed beating them, nor do I think it likely the winner of an 8-9 game can beat them.

Once you get to the regionals, unless your side of the bracket has been blown up by upsets, any game is going to be difficult because you are likely playing a top 20 opponent.

I think the Shockers can beat anybody. The question is the same for them as it will be for the other 15 teams in the Sweet 16: Can they win four straight against quality opponents?

I think they can. Will they? That is why they will play the tournament.

The Shockers run a beautiful halfcourt offense, with an old-school emphasis of getting the ball to the post. They have a very deep frontcourt with interchangeable parts. They defend with a purpose on every possession. They have stars in senior Cleanthony Early in the frontcourt and the sophomore backcourt of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Give me one point guard in America and I will take VanVleet, who has a rare feel for what it takes to maximize every possession. And they have Final Four experience.

Why can't Wichita win it all? And, if they do win the Missouri Valley Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, they would finish the season 40-0. I see at least 36-0. Those last four are going to be the hardest.

The great McDermott

The Player of the Year voting will not be complicated. Creighton's Doug McDermott should get every vote.

It was very cool to see Creighton in the Big East (even if Villanova might think otherwise), but imagine if the Bluejays were still in the Valley and had a home-and-home with Wichita this season.

Enjoy McDermott while you can. He now has 2,966 points and is about to become the eighth 3,000-point scorer in college history, just the third since La Salle's Lionel Simmons finished with 3,217 in 1990. He may also be the last.

The reality is that anybody this good won't be in college long enough to get to 3,000. And McDermott is this good.

How he will do in the NBA is a debate for another time. I just know this. He is the rare 55/45/nearly 90 player - 55 percent from the field and 45.7 percent from the arc for his career, 88.7 percent from the foul line this season.

My All-Big 5 team

There are way too many players for the 10 spots this season, but my first team looks like this: James Bell (Villanova), JayVaughnPinkston (Villanova), Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph's), Halil Kanacevic (Saint Joseph's) and Tyreek Duren (La Salle).

I could also make a case for Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidicono (both Villanova) and Ronald Roberts (St. Joe's) for first team. Others who will certainly get votes for the teams are: Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack (La Salle), Dalton Pepper, Will Cummings and Anthony Lee (Temple) and Tony Hicks, Fran Dougherty and Miles Jackson-Cartwright (Penn).

Like I said, there are many deserving players with not nearly enough spots to accommodate all of them.

Stat man retiring

Stu Suss did stats for the Quakers football team when he was a freshman at Penn. Then, the coach was out and so was Suss.

A new basketball coach had been hired to replace Dick Harter so Suss took a hand written letter to the office, asking if he could keep stats for the basketball team.

The holdover assistant, Ray Carazo, told Suss: "I know your type; you're just trying to get in the games for free. Stop wasting our time and get out of here."

"He threw me out of the office," Suss said.

That new coach, Chuck Daly, however, saw the letter and invited Suss to the intrasquad scrimmage. Suss did some individual defensive stats that intrigued Daly and the coach gave him a copy of a magazine Scholastic Coach that had an article about "offensive efficiency ratings."

Daly asked Suss to read the story and see if he "found any value" in it. He did. Decades before anybody heard of offensive and defensive efficiency, aka points per possession scored and allowed, Suss was giving Penn a statistical edge that Daly and all his successors used as they saw fit.

After 43 years of keeping his unique stats, Suss, a 1974 Penn grad and 1977 Penn Law grad, a prosecutor in the Chester County District Attorney's office from 1981 to 1999 and with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office from 2000 to 2008, will turn in his last stats package after next Tuesday's Penn game at Princeton.

"It's not fun anymore," Suss explained.

Suss, who grew up north of Albany, N.Y., tracks the play by play with his own "symbols and abbreviations and notes." He translates them all onto a spreadsheet after the fact, but has his stats available for review at halftime.

Suss calls himself a "chronicler" not a "prophet." He gives the coaches his numbers and they decide how useful they are in setting lineups, playing particular defenses, in-game strategy, whatever. Suss lets them know which defenses have been more effective, how many times they are scoring with their halfcourt offense and numerous other esoteric details that are becoming much more mainstream.

Former Butler coach Brad Stevens has been credited with popularizing the use of metrics in the college game. But he didn't start them. Neither did Suss. He credits Daly for having an open mind and that article for opening his own mind to a new and more effective way of looking at basketball statistics.

This and that

* A few weeks ago, Gov. Rendell wrote about his all-time All-Big 5 teams in Daily News Weekend. He explained that I was a consultant. For the record, I just gave him a list of seven or eight players from each school and he did the rest.

For the record, my all-time All-Big 5 team would be: Lionel Simmons (La Salle), Kenny Durrett (La Salle), Howard Porter (Villanova), Guy Rodgers (Temple) and Jameer Nelson (Saint Joseph’s). Give me those starters and Michael Brooks (La Salle), Mark Macon (Temple), Kerry Kittles (Villanova) and Cliff Anderson (St. Joe’s) to complete my rotation and I will take on any college team ever assembled.

Remember that neither Hall of Famers Paul Arizin (Villanova) nor Tom Gola (La Salle) played in the Big 5 era.

* How about a Wichita-Kansas national championship game or maybe a Midwest regional final in Indianapolis?

Lawrence and Wichita are 163 miles apart, but the schools don’t play. KU could have the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft in Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. I would take Wichita in that game. By the way, Wichita has a sub named Nick Wiggins. That would be Andrew’s older brother.

* Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season for the 10th consecutive time. The Jayhawks did this despite losing all five starters. KU has a record 56 conference championships.

* Yes, that was Southern Mississippi’s Aaron Brown who was the Conference USA Player of the Week last week. Brown, a junior transfer from Temple, averages 9.5 points for 25-5 USM.


Email: jerardd@phillynews.com

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