For the first time since 2003, the in-state rivalry between the Wichita State and Kansas State men’s basketball teams will be renewed in a 5 p.m. game Sunday at Intrust Bank Arena.
After back-to-back road wins at Missouri and Oklahoma State, the Shockers (6-1) will be looking to finish off their most difficult stretch of nonconference play with a third straight win over a power-conference opponent and claim early bragging rights in the four-year series.
With 12,000 tickets sold for Sunday’s game, WSU coach Isaac Brown said on Friday he was excited to experience the in-state rivalry for the first time.
“I’m so excited about this rivalry,” Brown said. “I think it’s great for the state. I think it’s great for college basketball. And I think it’s a great challenge for us as a basketball team.”
K-State (4-2) will be motivated to claim its first quality win of the season after taking a pair of top-25 teams in Arkansas and Illinois down to the wire, but ultimately falling in Kansas City during Thanksgiving week.
The Wildcats are guard-oriented with most of their scoring coming from sharpshooter Nijel Pack (15.8 points) and 5-foot-7 dynamo Markquis Nowell (11.7 points), while Missouri transfer Mark Smith (9.3 points, 7.5 rebounds) and veteran Mike McGuirl are also threats.
Per Synergy, K-State ranks in the 82nd percentile of Division I in scoring off the pick and roll with Pack and Nowell being the primary threats. They are shooting extremely well this season off the dribble and have made defenses pay for going under screens. Despite their diminutive stature (Pack is just 6 feet tall), both proven capable of finishing over towering defenders inside. Slowing them down will be a focus for the Shockers.
“They’ve got guards that can create shots and if you’ve got guards that can create shots, on any given night they could have a good night,” Brown said. “All three of their guards can create off the bounce. All three of those guys can shoot. On defense, they pick you up 94 feet. They pressure the ball up the court and they’re physical on every cut.
“They’re a really good basketball team. It’s a big challenge for us. We’re excited to play them.”
WSU is coming off a bizarre performance in Stillwater where it went scoreless for six-plus minutes to start both halves and gave up 10-0 runs both times, only to pummel Oklahoma State by 31 points once it started scoring. Brown said he was proud of his team’s “character, toughness and will to win.”
But the coach isn’t convinced a change is needed after those slow starts, as he says he’s committed to the same starting five of Craig Porter, Tyson Etienne, Dexter Dennis, Joe Pleasant and Morris Udeze. While Ricky Council IV, Monzy Jackson, Kenny Pohto and Qua Grant can be some of the team’s most impactful players, he likes the energy they bring off the bench.
“I think the slow start was because we missed five layups,” Brown said. “If we make those layups, we probably have the lead. I love the starting lineup, it’s the lineup that has played really well in practice this year and it’s the lineup that defends at a high level. We get great energy from all of those guys coming off the bench. We just got to make shots and not miss layups.”
Brown believes that by establishing year-over-year series with power-conference teams in the region like Oklahoma State, Missouri and Kansas State it could lead to more opportunities for the Shockers to potentially bring quality opponents to Wichita down the road.
“Maybe not if we play really well,” Brown said, laughing. “It’s hard for those schools to want to come in here and play us. You usually have to start a home-and-home series with those guys. Anytime you get those power-five teams to come here, it helps us, it helps bring fans out to the games and I think it helps their fan bases anytime they can get a good basketball team like Wichita State to come to Missouri, to come to Oklahoma State. I think it helps their ranking out by playing us.”
Kansas State at Wichita State basketball preview
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Intrust Bank Arena, Wichita (15,000)
Radio: 103.7 FM (Mike Kennedy and Bob Hull)
Series: KSU leads 11-20 (WSU leads 9-6 in Wichita)
Last meeting: KSU won 54-50 at Bramlage Coliseum on Dec. 10, 2003
KenPom says: WSU 68, KSU 63
Projected starting lineups
Wichita State Shockers (6-1)
Coach: Isaac Brown, second season, 22-7
Kansas State Wildcats (4-2)
Coach: Bruce Weber, 10th season, 174-132