Odds to win title: +2500
2014-15 Record: 30-5, 17-1 Missouri Valley Conference
Betting odds c/o Bovada
Wichita State has been knocking on the door for the past two seasons with Fred Vanvleet and Ron Baker. It had a 35-0 record and No. 1 seed last year, and has not missed the NCAA tournament since 2011.
Head coach Gregg Marshall said of the talented tandem, “I know I’m going to enjoy coaching them one more year.” As good as they are, it seems like a value bet that NCAA basketball oddsmakers set the line at +2500 for Wichita State to win the 2016 title. The team has plenty of experience and is coming off a Sweet 16 run, but this team can best that mark.
The team will suffer from the loss of Tekele Cotton in the backcourt, and will look to replace him with Kansas transfer Connor Frankamp. He is a shooter but is not eligible until mid-December. He is also a Wichita native so he brings some local appeal.
Baker and Vanvleet along with Evan Wessel are the strength of this team. The three combined to average 32.5 points per game last season and Vanvleet is one of the best guards in the nation, and he averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year. Wessel started 31 of 32 games last season and knocked down four threes in the tournament win over Kansas. He averaged 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game on the year. Landry Shamet may have an impact as a freshman, as a four-star recruit on Rivals.
The Shockers should be very strong in its frontcourt too. Shaquille Morris and Zach Brown are strong defenders and work hard, and Rashad Kelly and Bush Wamukota both will see bigger roles on the team. Morris’ field goal percentage of 54.5 was the second highest by any Wichita State freshman.
Brown earned the most improved award after seeing his role increased in the second half of the year. He finished with averages of 3.3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.
The Shockers have two outstanding freshmen in Markis McDuffie and Eric Hamilton. McDuffie averaged 15 points per game as a high school senior playing for Bob Hurley Sr. Hamilton is a 2014 recruit who spent last year at a prep school, but he is 6’9” 225 and could be another big body to throw at the likes of Kentucky.
Darius Carter was the Shockers’ most productive frontcourt player last season, but he departed. Even so graduate transfer Anton Grady will help some as he was an All-Horizon defensive team pick at Cleveland State where he averaged 14.2 points and 7.9 rebounds last year.