No. 14 Wichita State is the headliner in this week’s CBE Classic, a status organizers conferred when they sent out an email in April reading: Wichita State Headlines the Field.
By PAUL SUELLENTROP
The Wichita Eagle
The Shockers are the only ranked team in the tournament at the Sprint Center today and Tuesday. They are the only team that played in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. They are the local connection, and their former star Xavier McDaniel went into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. In most ways (except TV coverage) the CBE Classic is largely about the Shockers, even with Texas, Brigham Young and DePaul in the field.
That might be a new sensation for long-time fans. For the Shockers, it’s what they expect.
“That’s how we always thought of ourselves,” Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet said. “Now the outside world is thinking that way.”
The Shockers, 5-0, open the CBE against DePaul, 3-1. The teams met last season in the Cancun Challenge, with Wichita State winning 75-62. The Shockers never trailed, largely because they held the Blue Demons, playing unorganized and carelessly, to 30.6-percent shooting.
That loss helped doom DePaul to an 11-21 season in which it went 2-16 in the Big East, leading to big changes. Coach Oliver Purnell brought in seven new players and watched five transfer.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall expects to see a much different team than the one his Shockers handled a year ago in Mexico. DePaul’s loss is to Southern Mississippi, and it regrouped and handled Horizon League favorite Wright State.
“Bigger, bigger and better,” Marshall said. “They’ve beaten some pretty good teams, Milwaukee on the road, Wright State is a very good team from the Horizon.”
DePaul freshman center Tommy Hamilton Jr. averages 10.3 points and freshman guard Billy Garrett is second on the team with 16 assists as a reserve.
“They’re real athletic and they’ve got Big East-size,” VanVleet said. “They’ve got a lot of guys back from last year that can really score. It was a tight game last year, and they’ve gotten better.”
The Shockers are in the midst of four games away from home after starting the season with four at home. After the two games in Kansas City, Wichita State plays at Saint Louis on Sunday.
“As returners … we talked about it a little bit about with the new guys what it takes to win on the road,” VanVleet said. “That’s when you get closer as a team. You’ve got to keep grinding. You’re not going to win the game on one or two possessions.”
Texas looks to continue fast start
The objective is simple for Texas as it opens play Monday in the CBE Classic against Brigham Young.
“The big thing for us is to keep building on what we have going,” Longhorns coach Rick Barnes said.
At 4-0, Texas has a nice thing going. Junior forward Jonathan Holmes leads the Longhorns at 15.0 points. Five players average in double figures.
After losing its top four scorers from last year, Texas, picked to finish eighth in the Big 12, is in a rebuilding mode.
But it has some history on its side in this event. This is the Longhorns’ third trip to the CBE Classic, and they’re looking to win it for the third time. In 2005, Texas best West Virginia and Iowa. In 2009, the Longhorns defeated Iowa and Pittsburgh.
This one will be tough. Brigham Young is 4-1 and coming off its only defeat, 90-88 to Iowa State. Guard Tyler Haws, who had a 31-point game in a victory over Stanford, is averaging 26.3 points.
| Blair Kerkhoff, email@example.com