2012--13 RECORD 30--9 MVC 12--6 (2ND) WHAT'S BACK MINUTES: 49.4% POINTS: 51.0% REBOUNDS: 41.8%
In the wake of its Final Four run Wichita State didn't just install a $1.8 million video board and sound system, renovate the locker room and give coach Gregg Marshall a contract extension worth $1.8 million. Over the summer strength coach Kerry Rosenboom, the man responsible for beefing up the team that outmuscled Pitt and Ohio State, introduced the Shockers to yoga. Senior forward Cleanthony Early, who'd had a bad habit of running straight-legged and bending at the waist when fatigued, embraced the discipline with his usual open-mindedness. "I definitely feel like I can get lower and stay lower," says Early, the breakout star of last year's team. "It's going to change my game. It should change everybody's game."
A deeper stance and greater stamina on defense should take Early a long way toward fulfilling Marshall's off-season request that he improve his ballhandling and limit dumb fouls. "I also need him to score a lot—he has the green light," says Marshall. "He could have a monster season."
Marshall also expects big years from sophomore guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, two other keys to the Shockers' NCAA success. But replacing the mental toughness and senior leadership of point guard Malcolm Armstead and center Carl Hall, who combined for 23.2 points per game last year, won't be easy. "I tell my players they have to give us the toughness and mental resolve those kids had," says Marshall. "At least don't make us miss it so much it's painful."
Marshall knows how difficult it is to find players with the "hard-toed shoe" attitude he cherishes, and what he calls Early's New Age thinking" hasn't always meshed with his own old-school mentality. But Early is all-in. Asked what will replace last year's play angry mantra, Early doesn't hesitate: "Play angrier!"
Projected Lineup (2012--13 STATS)
PG FRED VANVLEET*
SOPH. 5'11" 4.3 PPG 2.3 APG
SG RON BAKER*
SOPH. 6'3" 8.7 PPG 1.8 APG
G TEKELE COTTON
JR. 6'2" 6.5 PPG 3.9 RPG
PF CLEANTHONY EARLY*
SR. 6'8" 13.9 PPG 5.4 RPG
C CHADRACK LUFILE
SR. 6'9" 1.6 PPG 1.8 RPG
G EVAN WESSEL
SOPH. 6'5" 5.5 PPG 1.8 RPG
C KADEEM COLEBY‚Ä†
SR. 6'9" 9.5 PPG 4.9 RPG
GREGG MARSHALL (7TH SEASON)
SIHow have things changed for your program?
GM Just the way we're perceived. There's national media interest. More than a handful of NBA teams have come to our practices, so we're on the map now. Wichita can be a difficult place to get to, but when people are in the area, they go out of their way to come by and check it out.
SIWhich games from the Final Four run have you watched?
GM When we have recruits in, I make sure Ohio State and Gonzaga are playing on the nine televisions in my house, so anywhere they go they are watching and hearing the telecasts of those games.
SIWhat are your biggest concerns about this team?
GM [Developing] the defense, rebounding and toughness that every one of my teams has had. They will eventually have it, but I don't know if it can equal last year's group.
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ROUND OF 64
ROUND OF 32
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (3)