Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Wichita State will make its first appearance since falling to Louisville in the Final Four, as the 16th-ranked Shockers host Division II foe Emporia State at Charles Koch Arena on Saturday to tip off the 2013-14 season.
Emporia State is looking for its second victory over a Division I opponent in as many days as it notched an 81-76 decision over the Western Athletic Conference's UMKC Kangaroos on Friday. The Hornets' victory over a Division I squad was shocking considering they finished 13-14 last season. They were not too successful in their other exhibition versus a ranked opponent in Oklahoma State, falling to the Cowboys, 87-51, in Stillwater.
Coach Gregg Marshall's Shockers have high hopes after their 30-win campaign last season ended with a hard-fought loss to the eventual national champion Louisville Cardinals. Wichita State will have to replace three of its top players from that squad that finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference to Doug McDermott and Creighton. With the Bluejays testing the waters of the new look Big East Conference, Marshall and the Shockers are the early favorites to win their conference, which would give them another chance at a late run in March.
The Hornets' victory over the Kangaroos counted as an exhibition as will their bout with OSU. ESU's matchup with the Shockers will also be considered an exhibition. The Hornets rallied past UMKC behind a strong showing from Paul Bunch, who tallied 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks to lead the way. Kaleb Wright and Terrence Moore netted 17 points apiece whole Gavin Brown contributed 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists. ESU played very well defensively, holding the Kangaroos to 35.8 percent shooting from the floor.
The Shockers have a tremendous leader in Cleanthony Early (13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), who made a big-time impact in his inaugural season with the program in 2012-13 after making a name for himself at the junior college level. He will be joined by sophomore sharpshooter Ron Baker (8.7 ppg), junior Tekele Cotton (7.8 ppg), and a total of eight letterwinners in all. Early was named the MVC Preseason Player of the Year, while Baker came on strong down the stretch after missing the first half of last season with an injury. Senior center Kadeem Coleby will provide WSU with a defensive presence as well as some rebounding help for Early.