It's going to be hard for Wichita State to achieve the success and national attention they did during their Final Four run last season. But with Cleanthony Early back for a senior season and a couple of key acquisitions, the Shockers are the favorites in the Missouri Valley Conference and a near-lock for an at-large bid. Once March starts, they've proven, anything can happen.
As mentioned, their do-everything stud Early can take over a game on both ends of the floor. Junior transfer Darius Carter gives Gregg Marshall two versatile forwards to throw at teams. Freshman Shaquille Morris and transfer Kadeem Coleby are proof that this program is on the map and can attract premium talent.
The one bump in the road for the Shockers was an unfortunate health condition for one of their potential freshman. Three-star recruit and point guard D.J. Bowles won't play basketball for the school, having collapsed during a workout in September. Bowles had a successful heart operation and will keep his four-year scholarship, but won't be cleared to play.
Ranked No. 17 in the preseason polls, expectations haven't been higher for the Shockers in decades. Look for non-conferences clashes against Tennessee, Western Kentucky and Saint Louis to evaluate how deep of a run this team can take.
Ron Baker: The first of two sophomores expected to start in the backcourt, Baker is the more seasoned of the two. Though at times the Kansas native displays a smooth stroke, shot selection has been a problem. The emphasis this season should be getting the ball down low.
Fred Van Vleet: The other sophomore expected to tip off the season on the floor, the former top-100 recruit is more of a distributor. As a 5'11 freshman, the Illinois product averaged 2.3 assists in just 16 minutes of playing time. He was also 20 of 49 from three last season, so look for him to get open more often around the perimeter this season.
Tekele Cotton: The most experienced guard on the team, Cotton was the sixth man for the Shockers last season. With Baker and VanVleet expected to step in as starters, the junior may very well play the same role this season. The Georgia native puts up solid numbers across the board and rebounds very well for a 6'2 guard.
Evan Wessel: After suffering a season-ending injury just eight games into last season, Wessel will try to get Wichita back to the Final Four for personal reasons. The sophomore was having a fine sophomore season before getting hurt, shooting the ball really well from deep as a spot-up shooter. He will round out a deep rotation of unproven guards for the Shockers this season.
Cleanthony Early: Head and shoulders above most of the players in his conference, Early is a threat to go for 30 on any given night. The senior averaged 45.5% shooting last season as the focal point of the offense and grabbed over five rebounds per game to go with the scoring.
Darius Carter: Gregg Marshall's most important acquisition, the JuCo transfer should step in right away and start at forward alongside Early. Though he lacks the enormous build of his cousin LeBron James, Carter has the athletic pedigree to contribute to the Shockers.
Shaquille Morris: The most highly-regarded freshman who will actually suit up for Wichita, Morris does his best work from the block. With soft hands and toughness down low, look for Morris to get some looks on the second unit.
Kadeem Coleby: Sat out last season after transferring from UL-Lafayette. In his first (and last) season with the Shockers, Coleby will slide in as the starter and look to replicate the 9.5 points and 4.9 he put up in Louisiana. He also averaged 2.4 blocks in 21 minutes of play, Coleby can fill space in the middle for Marshall.