The biggest test of the season, in every sense of the word, awaits the Wichita State men’s basketball team when it arrives in Las Vegas.

After fending off three fiery back-to-back mid-major teams at Koch Arena, the Shockers will have a significant edge in the competition when they face college basketball blue blood Arizona in the Roman Main Event semifinals. at 9 p.m. Central Friday. at the T-Mobile Arena. The game will air on ESPNU.

In their first year under coach Tommy Lloyd, Gonzaga’s former assistant, the Wildcats (3-0) looked like a well-oiled machine. Admittedly, the level of competition has been low, but Arizona is averaging 94 points per game with an average victory margin of 45 points.

Not only is Arizona figuratively the biggest challenge yet for WSU, it’s also literally the biggest challenge. The Wildcats are the tallest team in the country, according to KenPom, with a frontcourt headlining a 6-foot-11-inch Azuolas Tubelis and 7-foot-1 Christian Koloko taking full advantage of their height. – the duo averaged 30 combined points and made Arizona the toughest defense to score on the inside (# 1 in effective field defense and # 1 in two-point defense).

It’s true Arizona haven’t faced such a stingy defense as the WSU, but it’s also true that the Shockers haven’t seen anything yet that looks a lot like talent, length, size. and running the Wildcats. It will be a monumental challenge for the WSU front row consisting of Joe Pleasant and Morris Udeze, who will drop a total of nine inches.

“We are always up to the challenge,” Udeze said. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall. “

“(WSU) is a tough blue collar program,” Lloyd said. “Their players have chips on their shoulders. They will fight you. It’s going to be a physical battle. I think we are made for this. We know it’s going to be tested.

Arizona is unique in that they want to speed up the game, rather than slow it down to capitalize on their size advantage. Tubelis and Koloko perform well for their size and Arizona are more like the Showtime Lakers this season – averaging 23.3 assists for the No.1 (74%) assists rate in the country and playing at fourth rate faster on offense – than you would expect from a team with so many front row goals.

The Wildcats have entered the season with some uncertainty due to the change in roster and a first-year coach, but Lloyd already has his squad that looks like a legitimate top 25 team in the country.

“We’re going to try to play as we’ve established and we know it’s going to be tested,” said Lloyd. “Maybe better athletes, maybe better athletes, a higher level of talent.”

This means WSU should have its first chance at a win in Quadrant 1 on Friday, with Arizona almost assuredly finishing in the top 50 of the NET rankings, the requirement for meetings on neutral ground.

“We are excited about the challenge,” said WSU coach Isaac Brown. “These tournaments are important. They can definitely help you enter the NCAA tournament with quality wins. Arizona is a good basketball team. They have some of the best players in the country. We are excited about the opportunity and to play against a big university like Arizona which is going to have a big roster.

The WSU is optimistic that star goaltender Tyson Etienne, pre-season American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, will be present for Friday’s game. Etienne was ill in last Saturday’s win over South Alabama, then missed Tuesday’s game against Tarleton State.

Driving to score at the rim will be a perilous adventure for the WSU against Arizona, as Koloko (4.0 blocks) is one of the best shot blockers in the country. Even though they have foul issues, Arizona have a 7-foot sophomore Oumar Ballo (10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks) to come in and still be a lag. The Shockers have struggled to make decisions around the edge as they sit in the bottom 50 in the country with over 16% of their shots blocked.

This means that in order to defeat Arizona, the Shockers will likely need to complete an above-average percentage of their jump shots. The good news is that the WSU created positive momentum in Tuesday’s victory over Tarleton State, scoring a record nine three-pointers with a season-best 42.9 percent accuracy.

“It will only get better,” said Monzy Jackson, a sophomore WSU student. “Vegas, we’re coming, that’s all I can say. “

Etienne’s return gives WSU their most dangerous threat around the perimeter, as the Shockers will need to move the ball well to maneuver around a pair of long, lanky 6-7 wings that Arizona is also starting.

In Brown’s mind, the keys to victory don’t change: WSU will just have to do them better to beat a better opponent. The Shockers will also face Michigan or UNLV in Game 2 of the tournament on Sunday night.

“We have to play well to win these great games,” said Brown. “You have to defend, rebound and play tenaciously. “

Wichita State vs. Arizona basketball preview

When: 9:00 p.m. on central Friday

Or: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas (18,000)

Diffusion: ESPNU (John Schriffen and Robbie Hummel)

Radio: 103.7 FM (Mike Kennedy and Dave Dahl)

Series: WSU leads 2-1

Last meeting: WSU won 65-55 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 17, 2016

KenPom says: Arizona 72, WSU 67

Projected starting eleven

Arizona Wild Cats (3-0)

Pos. No. Player Ht. weight Year pts Reb. Ast.
g 4 Dalen terry 6-7 195 So. 5.7 5.0 5.0
g 25 Kerr kriisa 6-3 180 So. 12.7 1.3 3.3
g 0 Benoît Mathurin 6-7 195 So. 12.0 5.0 2.0
F ten Azuolas Tubelis 6-11 245 So. 16.0 6.3 2.3
VS 35 Christian Koloko 7-1 225 Jr. 14.0 6.7 1.7

Coach: Tommy Lloyd, season one, 3-0

Wichita State Shockers (2-0)

Pos.

No.

Player

Ht.

weight

Year

pts

Reb.

Ast.

g

22

Qua Grant

6-1

195

Jr.

7.7

3.0

2.7

g

1

Tyson Etienne

6-2

203

So.

10.0

2.5

3.0

g

0

Dexter Denis

6-5

210

Jr.

11.3

6.7

1.3

F

32

Joe Pleasant

6-7

231

Jr.

3.0

3.0

0.0

VS

24

Morris udeze

6-8

245

Jr.

8.3

7.7

0.0

Coach: Isaac Brown, second season, 19-6

This story was originally published November 18, 2021 14:16.

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