Opponent: Central Arkansas (11-20 in 2021)
All-Time: Wichita State leads 1-0 with a 95-69 win in 2019
When and Where: ESPN+, Charles Koch Arena, 7:02 PM tip
The Line: Wichita State -17.5
The Pick: Central Arkansas to cover +17.5
It’s a new era for Shocker basketball. Only 4 players return from last season’s 15-13 campaign, and two of them have never seen a D1 basketball court.
Central Arkansas returns 4 starters for a team picked 11th in the Atlantic Sun, lead by fifth year senior Eddy Kayoulou.
Familiar faces and reunions will be plenty in Koch Arena on Monday night – Bears head coach Anthony Boone faced Wichita State four times while at Ole Miss in the 1990s.
In addition, Swedish national team participant Ibbe Klintman will face off with Blågult teammate Kenny Pohto who is expected to start for Wichita State.
Pohto also reunites with Sunrise Christian Academy teammate Elias Cato, a 6’8 sophomore looking for an expanding role this season.
Offense, offense, offense
KenPom ranked Central Arkansas as the 12th fastest team in the country last season. Wichita State head coach Isaac Brown has preached how important defense will be to his team this season – this will be an important first test to see if they have listened.
The Craig Porter Show
Wichita State relied on Tyson Etienne to the extreme last season and it produced varied results. With Porter now the star of opponent scouting reports this season, he will have to find a balance between leading the way on offense and getting his teammates involved. But make no mistake, Porter is a true point guard and Etienne was not. The Shockers success this season rests squarely on Porter’s shoulders.
In their scrimmage against Newman, Wichita State struggled at times on the glass against an overmatched Division II squad. Rebounding took a major step back last season for the Shockers and their overall success showed that. In their defensive system, rebounds are absolutely essential to limit possessions. If they cannot rebound, they will struggle to find other ways to win this season.
Time For IB to Prove It
The first two seasons for Wichita State head man Isaac Brown have been polar opposites. Brown did a tremendous job in year one leading the Shockers to an American Athletic title and NCAA First Four appearance. Year two was a different story, finishing with a 15-13 record and no postseason in a year that fans held high expectations. With a new athletic director, this year could be make or break for Brown.
How Wichita State Can Win:
This is a game the Shockers should win, but if they want to avoid a close one they will have to work for it. Defense and rebounding are easy to forget about when playing an overmatched opponent, but this is not Newman. Central Arkansas will be able to punish the Shockers if they don’t box out and get back in transition. Limiting second chance opportunities and taking care of the ball so the Bears can’t get comfortable in their fast paced offense will carry Wichita State to their 59th home opening win. They must set the tone early – not just for this game, but for the entire season.