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Illinois State Redbirds vs. Wichita State Shockers - 1/22/14

Wichita State Shockers (19-0) at Illinois State Redbirds (11-7)

College Basketball: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 8:05 pm (Redbird Arena)

The Line: Illinois State Redbirds +10 -- Over/Under: TBA See the Latest Odds


The nation’s fifth-ranked team, the Wichita State Shockers go on the road to face the Illinois State Redbirds on Wednesday night in Normal, Illinois.

The Shockers scored another easy victory in their last home game against the Valley’s 2nd place team, Indiana State. Their suffocating defense limited the Sycamores to just 31% shooting, while the Shockers continued to dominate on the glass for a +14 rebounding margin. Their only scare this season came 10 days ago at Missouri State, in which their undefeated season was almost a sure bet until they came on with a massive comeback of 19 points in the 2nd half to eventually win by 3 in OT. The Shockers are one of the most complete teams in the nation and their head coach Gregg Marshall is striving for a perfect season and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But he is not looking ahead to the next game, and gets his guys ready for each game and they have showed immense focus to this point. Senior Cleanthony Early, the league’s preseason Valley Player of the Year, comes in with a 15.9 ppg average, and nearly 7 boards per game. The sophomore tandem of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker play like seniors with their incredible poise and ability to make clutch plays, while making very few mistakes. VanVleet carries a 4:1 assist to turnover ratio and is second in scoring at 13.8 ppg, and Baker nets 13.6 ppg. They pretty much have 7 guys who contribute on the offensive end and have one of the best defenses in the nation. And that’s crucial as they have a fairly low field goal percentage (44.9%).

Illinois State Redbirds vs. Wichita State Shockers - 1/22/14

Paul Halfacre-USA TODAY Sports

The host ISU Redbirds normally play the Shockers tough at home, though there are mostly newcomers who likely have just been caught up with that. What they don’t need to be caught up on is how tough it will be to beat the Shockers and need to play their best game…and then some…to have a chance to win. They are an average rebounding team, so that is not on their side. What is on their side is confidence, having won 10 of their last 13 games and are playing well through the first 1/3 of the Valley season. Junior JUCO transfer Daishon Knight is the ‘Birds most explosive offensive player with 13.2 ppg, followed by Zack Lofton (11.6 ppg) and Bobby Hunter (10.2 ppg). The Redbirds tend to fall in love with shooting 3’s, but they are becoming more balanced. They hit 9 of 20 at Drake on Saturday. But at 33% on the season, they likely are not to hit 60% like Creighton did on Monday at Villanova. They need to throw in some things that keep the Shockers off guard and hit the boards hard on defense. They only have 2 guys who average 4 rebounds a game, so it will take a full effort to limit the Shockers from second-chance points.

I didn’t get it right last game, thinking Indiana State would give the Shockers more competition and cover the spread. But I am a bit more confident that Illinois State will cover the 10 points they are given here. I don’t see an upset even though it’s not out of the realm as they’ve beaten a ranked team on their home court already (#25 Dayton in December). I’m pretty sure the Redbird faithful will be in full support on Wednesday night and it’s a tough place to play when it’s near capacity. With each game comes a bigger target on their backs, but the Shockers know that, and are a team that finds ways to win and are not easily phased….I think they will be 20-0 after this one.

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