In Monday’s section, our sports staff recommended Wichita State as the team to root for in the NCAA tournament. Fortunately, we have a connection with the Shockers: former Illini assistant Bob Hull, who still calls Wichita State games on the radio.
1. 1976 Hoosiers vs. 2014 Shockers ... who wins?
The 1976 Indiana team won the national championship at 32-0 but I thought that the 1975 Indiana team was better. They had Steve Green and John Laskowski and were much deeper. The 1976 team had a great starting five but the key bench players were Wayne Radford, Jim Crews, Rich Valavicius and Jim Wisman. Key matchups: Scott May vs Cleanthony Early both 6-foot-8 and prolific scorers. May is probably stronger, Early faster and more athletic. Kent Benson vs WSU “Three Headed Monster” (Coleby, Lufile, Carter). Benson’s is taller and the better scorer but I’ll take 15 fouls over 5. Wings: Abernethy and Wilkerson vs Baker and Cotton. The Hoosier are taller but the Shockers are better shooters and ball handlers. Point Guard: Quinn Buckner vs Fred VanVleet. I’m a huge Buckner fan. His Thornridge HS teams were awesome and I think he may be the most dominating high school guard in Illinois high school history. But as great a defender as he was, he shot 44% from the field and a very low 49% from the FT line (unheard of for a guard in college basketball today). VanVleet shoots 43% from the 3pt line and 83% from the FT line and has a 4 to 1 assists to turnover ratio. If we play the game with the 3pt line I think that gives Wichita State a huge edge. It’s a very close call but I have to give the edge to the Shockers because I think they have the better head coach in Gregg Marshall.
2. Who wins the All Kansas tournament this season.
I guess you would have to play a round robin tournament because Kansas has three excellent teams in Wichita State, Kansas and Kansas State. Bruce Weber’s K-State team is an outstanding defensive team and the very physical but they are very inconsistent offensively. Their passing and decision making is suspect and has cost them a number of games. Bill Self’s KU team is very talented and very deep but young. At times they look unbeatable but then figure out ways to beat themselves. They lack a true point guard and in big games that can be a kiss of death. Remember the lead they blew against Michigan and Trey Burke in last year’s NCAA tournament. I have to go with the Wichita State Shockers. They defend, they rebound, they really shoot it well, they’re deep, they’re unselfish and they’re the best passing team I’ve seen since the 2005 Illini. And they have the best guards.
3. What’s been the best part of covering a team like this?
Hanging out with the players and coaches. The team has tremendous chemistry and truly like each other. The players are very mature for their age and they’ve handled the spotlight amazingly well. Gregg Marshall and his assistants are a lot of fun to hang out with. Gregg does a great job of making everyone around the program feel like they are an integral part of it’s success. As an example...He asked us (the radio team) to help them cut down the nets after the MVC Tournament Championship in St. Louis last Sunday. Pretty cool stuff!!
4. If Bell Self walked into a bar in Wichita, the regulars would....
Buy him a drink and ask him to schedule the Shockers (home and home).
5. How long until Illinois becomes an NCAA tournament regular again?
Not long if Kendrick Nunn convinces some of his talented friends to come down and join him in Champaign. He’s fantastic!