The skinny: It’s going to be hard to top the edge-of-your-seat thrills VCU and Wichita State delivered the last two seasons, but it’s worth a shot.
In 2011, a pair of Joey Rodriguez free throws with .8 seconds left gave VCU a 68-67 BracketBusters win in Wichita. Last March, a Darius Theus floater in the waning moments helped secure a 62-59 Rams’ victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Portland, Ore. The Shockers are going to feel like they have a score to settle.
But the team VCU will meet this year bears little resemblance to the one from March. Wichita State (1-0) graduated its top five scorers. There’s still talent, however. The Shockers were picked to finish fourth in the highly competitive Missouri Valley Conference and return bruising forward Carl Hall, who gave the Rams fits in Portland.
The Shockers opened their 2011-12 season Friday with a 71-57 win over North Carolina Central. As expected, Hall led the way with 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. He’ll be a real test for VCU’s bigs. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman guard Ron Baker knocked down 4-of-7 three-pointers on the way to 18 points. The rest of the team was 2-of-12 from three. The game was similar to VCU’s season-opening performance in that the Shockers ran out to a big first half lead before sagging in the second.
One game does not a season make, however, and there’s still an unknown quality to Wichita State. Its starting lineup Saturday featured Hall, Oregon transfer Malcolm Armstead, Baker (a freshman) and two guys that averaged fewer than two points per game last season in Evan Wessel and Ehimen Orukpe.
Quick hitters: Troy Daniels and Darius Theus were a combined 9-of-15 against Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament last year… Wichita State was 10-1 on the road last season… Hall hit 4-of-7 from the field and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds against VCU in the NCAA Tournament last year.