No. 6 seed Wichita State opens play Thursday night at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., in the Air Force Reserve American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship. First round action against the ECU Pirates tips off at just after 9 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
Shocker Radio streaming will be unavailable in the postseason, but fans outside of the Wichita area can listen to national coverage of all 11 tournament games from Learfield IMG College on Sirius 134/XM channel 202 and via TuneIn on the College Sports Now channel.
- The winner of Thursday night’s WSU-ECU game advances to Friday’s quarterfinal round to face No. 3 seed Temple (8 p.m. CT, ESPNU).
- The Shockers swept the regular season series from ECU (by 16 in Greenville and by 17 last Tuesday in Wichita) and lead 3-0 all-time.
- This is the Shockers’ second American Tournament. A year ago, as the No. 2 seed in Orlando, they defeated No. 7 Temple before falling to No. 3 Houston in the semifinal round.
- WSU entered 2018-19 as one of the nation’s least-experienced units (10 newcomers; just 11.2% of minutes returning). Markis McDuffie is the only Shocker who saw time in last year’s tourney.
- Picked eighth, the rebuilding Shockers opened conference play at 1-6 but have been one of The American’s hottest teams ever since, winning nine of the last 11 games for a sixth-place finish. WSU’s four-game winning streak is the league’s longest active.
- While they’ll likely need four more wins in four days to extend their string of seven-consecutive NCAA tournaments, a strong showing in Memphis would strengthen the youthful Shockers’ case for an NIT bid. WSU has appeared in 10-straight postseasons.
- Heading into the week, the Shockers had played a league-best 17 Quadrant I or II games, ahead of UConn (16) and Houston (16).
- 10 of the team’s 30 games have been decided by four-points in either direction. They’re 6-4 with three wins on buzzer-beaters.
- On Feb. 28, head coach Gregg Marshall recorded his 300th Shocker win (he’s 303-111 in 12 seasons). Marshall is now just three wins shy of 500 for his career (497-194, 21st).
- WSU has won at least one game in 10-straight conference tourneys. The last “one-and-done” came in Marshall’s debut season (2008). Marshall is 18-2 all-time openers.
- McDuffie was voted second team all-conference. He ranks among The American’s top-10 in scoring (4th, 17.9), free throw percentage (5th, .814) and three-pointers (8th, 2.3). McDuffie is rapidly climing WSU’s all-time lists — 16th in scoring (1,389) and tied for ninth in career threes (144).
- Guard Dexter Dennis (7.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 39.4% 3pt) was named to The American’s all-freshman team.
- Two-time freshman of the week, Jamarius Burton is having an outstanding year of his own. His 3.3 assists and 1.85 A:TO ratio is tops among the league’s rookie qualifiers.
- Jaime Echenique is the Shockers’ leading rebounder (5.9) and ranks among The American’s top-five in blocks (4th, 1.5) and field goal percentage (5th, .538).
- Senior guard Samajae Haynes-Jones ranks second on the team in scoring (12.2), three-pointers (57) and minutes (32.7).
AMERICAN TOURNAMENT ODDS & ENDS
- This is the sixth year for the American Tournament. The winner earns the conference’s automatic bid to next week’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
- WSU’s addition last year boosted the field to 12 teams for the first time and added a fourth play-in game to the schedule. The top-four seeds each have first-round byes. The other eight take part in Thursday’s first round.
- SMU is the only school with multiple tournament titles (2015 and 2017). UConn (2016) and Cincinnati (2018) have one-each. Louisville won the inaugural tournament in 2014.
- UConn has the most championship game appearances (3), playing in each of the first three from 2014-16.
- Play-in teams are a respectable 4-10 in quarterfinal games. No. 1 seeds are 5-0, No. 2 seeds are 4-1 (the lone loss came in 2016 when No. 10 Tulane upset No. 7 UCF and No. 2 Houston before falling to Memphis).
- Four teams in this year’s field are either ranked or receiving AP votes: No. 11 Houston, No. 24 Cincinnati, UCF (highest of the unranked vote-getters) and Temple.
- The 2020, 2021 and 2022 American Tournaments will be played in Fort Worth, Texas at the brand new Dickies Arena (slated to open in November, 2019).
WICHITA STATE IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
- This is Wichita State’s second American Tournament. In 2018, the second-seeded Shockers defeated No. 7 Temple in the quarterfinals before falling to No. 3 Houston the semifinal round.
- WSU finished either first or second-place in its conference race for nine-consecutive years from 2010-18. That streak ended in 2018-19.
- WSU’s No. 6 seed is its lowest in conference tournament play since the 2008-09 season when the team finished in a three-way tie for fifth-place in the MVC standings but drew a No. 7 seed. The Shockers have been seeded first or second in every bracket since then.
- The Shockers have won their opener in 10-straight conference tournaments and reached the semifinals in each of the last nine.
- From 1977 to 2017, WSU competed in 38 MVC Tournaments, going 35-34 with seven finals appearances (four of them under Gregg Marshall) and four titles (1985, 1987, 2014, 2017). Notably, the first two came at the expense of Tulsa on the Hurricane’s home floor.
- The Shockers cut down the nets in their final Arch Madness appearance (2017), winning by margins of 26, 15 and 20 points. Conner Frankamp was named Most-Outstanding Player after knocking down 11 threes. He scored a season-high 19 points in the championship game against Illinois State (71-51). It was just the second WSU title since the event’s 1991 move to St. Louis.
GREGG MARSHALL IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
- Gregg Marshall has won nine conference tournament titles, most recently in 2017. He captured seven Big South Tournament crowns in his nine years at Winthrop.
- Marshall is 35-11 all-time in conference tournament games (16-9 at WSU).
- Marshall is 18-2 in conference tournament openers with 10-consecutive wins. Losses came in 2003 (at Winthrop) and 2008 (in his first season at WSU).
- Marshall’s teams have reached the semifinal round in 17 of his 20 trips, including an active run of nine-straight semifinals. WSU’s eight-straight MVC semifinals were a conference record.
- Marshall teams are 9-2 in conference tournament finals (7-0 at Winthrop and 2-2 at WSU). ***The Shockers lost Arch Madness title games in 2010 (UNI) and 2013 (Creighton) but won appearances in 2014 (Indiana State) and 2017 (Illinois State).
- WSU has history on its side. No. 6 seeds are 5-0 in their American tournament openers and 8-5 overall.
- The No. 6 upset the No. 3 in each of the first four tournaments before Houston finally stopped that trend last year, becoming the first No. 3 to win a game in the tournament.
- UConn (2015) and Memphis (2016) reached the title game as No. 6 seeds, but neither won it.
WICHITA STATE AT FEDEXFORUM
- This is the tournament’s second stop in Memphis. FedExForum hosted the inaugural tournament in 2014. Memphis (also seeded fifth that year) lost to No. 4 UConn in its quarterfinal opener.
- FedExForum is home to NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, as well as the University of Memphis’ Tigers.
- The Shockers are 1-1 all-time at FedExForum. Both games were against Memphis. The Shockers won their debut last year but lost earlier this year (Jan. 3).
- Gregg Marshall is 1-2 at FedExForum, having also played there with his Winthrop team back in 2006. The Eagles lost by just 10 points to a Memphis team that came in ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll.
THE SERIES WITH ECU
- It’s the fourth chapter in “The War on I-35 to I-435 to I-70 to I-77S to US-52S to I-40E to I-264E”. Wichita State University and East Carolina University are separated by over 1,300 miles. Diehard fans with Teslas and steel bladders can make the drive in just over 20 hours.
- ECU is one of four new American rivals that the Shockers had never faced prior to joining the league last year (UCF, USF and Tulane are the others).
- WSU is 3-0 all-time against ECU. All three wins have come by 16+ points.
- Gregg Marshall is 6-0 vs. ECU. His teams swept three non-conference meetings with ECU in the mid-2000s. He’s 4-0 at Minges Coliseum (2-0 as WSU head coach).
- WSU won the inaugural game of the series in January, 2018 (95-60). The fifth-ranked Shockers piled up 32 assists — most ever in a game involving two American Conference teams — led by Landry Shamet’s 11-point, 11-assist line.
- The Shockers swept this year’s home-and-home, winning by 16 in Greenville and by 17 last Tuesday in Wichita. They held double-digit halftime leads in both.
- Markis McDuffie averaged a team-high 15.0 points in the two wins but was just 4-of-15 from three. He did knock down 10-of-13 free throws.
- The Shockers were great on the glass, outrebounding the Pirates by 10 in last week’s matchup and by 19 in their February visit to Minges Coliseum. The latter was WSU’s best rounding against an American opponent in two seasons.
- WSU’s center platoon (Echenique/Midtgaard/Poor- Bear-Chandler) averaged 19.0 points, 19.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in exactly 40.0 minutes-per-game while shooting 62.5% from the field (15-of-24).
- Neither side shot better than 40% in either game.
- WSU held Jayden Gardner to 8.0 points — less than half of his season average — and 5.5 rebounds. Isaac Fleming averaged a team-high 14.0 points for the Pirates.
Mar. 5, 2019 | Wichita, Kan. | WSU, 72-55
- Using depth and defense, the Shockers overcame another cold shooting performance to win on senior night.
- Markis McDuffie scored a team-high 16 points and Samajae Haynes-Jones added seven points and a team-high four assists in 31 turnover-free minutes.
- Dexter Dennis paired 10 points with a game-high eight rebounds.
- Asbjørn Midtgaard set a new career-high with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go with six boards and three blocks.
- Isaac Fleming had 17 for ECU and Rico Quinton posted a double-double with 11 points (all in the second half) and 10 rebounds.
- WSU shot 39% but held ECU to 36% on 3-of-15 three-point shooting and out-rebounded the visiting Pirates 47-37. The Shockers finished with 14 assists against just seven turnovers.
- WSU used a 14-4 surge to go up 32-18 near the 4:00-mark of the first half and led comfortably the rest of the way.
Feb. 6, 2019 | Greenville, N.C. | WSU, 65-49
- Samajae Haynes-Jones hit his first seven shots on his way to a team-high 18 points, and WSU outrebounded ECU by 19 to pick up its first true road win in seven tries this year.
- Haynes-Jones finished 7-of-9 from the field (2-of-2 from three) and cashed both free throw attempts.
- Markis McDuffie added 14 points and recorded his 100th career steal.
- Asbjørn Midtgaard grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds (five of them on the offensive end) to go with six points, and Jaime Echenique just missed a double-double with eight points and 10 boards.
- The Shockers won despite shooting just 39.7% thanks to a gritty defensive effort. They held ECU to 34.6% and outrebounded the host Pirates, 46-27.
- The Shockers led 34-20 at halftime and extended the margin to as many as 21 points late in the second half.
SCOUTING THE PIRATES
- The Pirates have a new captain. Last spring ECU re-hired Joe Dooley (who had previously led the program from 1995-99) as its head coach. Dooley was a 10-year assistant at Kansas under Bill Self (2003-13) before guiding FGCU to five-straight 20-win seasons (’13-18). Jayden Gardner was named to the All-Freshman team on Monday. He ranks in the league’s top-10 in scoring (10th, 16.3), rebounding (2nd, 8.5), offensive rebounds (2nd, 3.1) and double-doubles (2nd, 10). Gardner also ranks among the top-25 nationally in free throw makes (167) and attempts (223).
- Shawn Williams is the team’s second-leading scorer (12.8 ppg) and leads the Pirates in both minutes (34.5) and three-point field goals (68 on 36.4% accuracy).
- Williams and K.J. Davis (43/148, .291) have accounted for 111 of ECU’s 151 threes this year.
- ECU ranks 346th (out of 351 teams) in three-point field goals per game (5.0) and 347th in three-point percentage (.286).
- Isaac Fleming leads the team in both steals (1.57) and assists (3.9).
- ECU earned a signature win on Jan. 5 when it upset Cincinnati at Minges Coliseum. Since then, the Pirates have lost 14 of their last 16. The only wins in that stretch have come against Tulane.
- ECU is 2-4 all-time in American Tournament play. The Pirates won first-round games in 2015 and 2017. Last year as the No. 11 seed, they fell to UCF, 66-52.
- Jamarius Burton is a Charlotte, N.C. native who led Independence High to the Class 4A state title last spring.
- ECU freshman Tae Hardy is a former prep school teammate of current WSU freshman Dexter Dennis. The two played together last year at Believe Academy under new Shocker assistant Tyson Waterman.
- WSU has finished with double-digit rebounding margins in all three of its encounters with ECU. Last year the Shockers finished +14 in Greenville.
- Gregg Marshall is 3-0 vs. Joe Dooley. Last season Dooley’s Florida Gulf Coast team put a scare into the 11th-ranked Shockers, leading by seven points with 13:00 to go. WSU recovered to win 75-65.
- As a freshman at Hawaii, Isaac Fleming took a nationally-ranked Shocker team to the wire in the Diamond Head Classic. WSU survived in overtime on a last-second putback. Fleming scored 17 points off the bench and grabbed five rebounds before fouling out. He was 7-of-9 from the field and hit three triples.
- Former Shocker Gabe Blair – a starter on the 2011 NIT Championship team – played his first two collegiate seasons at ECU before transferring to Wichita.
A SHOCKER WIN WOULD…
… move them into Friday’s quarterfinal round vs. the No. 3 seed Temple (approx. 8 p.m. CT, ESPNU).
… make them 18-13 with wins in 10 of their last 12.
… give them a season-high five-game win streak.
… make WSU 2-1 all-time in AAC Tournament games.
… give them a three-game sweep of ECU in 2018-19.
… make them 4-0 all-time vs. ECU.
… make Marshall 19-2 in conference tournament openers with 11-straight wins.
… make Marshall 7-0 vs. ECU (4-0 vs. Dooley).
… move Marshall to within two wins of 500.
A SHOCKER LOSS WOULD…
… eliminate them from the tournament.
… drop their record to 17-14.
… snap a four-game winning streak.
… be just their third loss since Jan. 27
… be their first to ECU in four meetings all-time.
… be less good than a win.