First Four

Drake and Wichita State battle in a first four matchup where the winner will play USC.

First Four: Drake’s Resume

This is the first time since I graduated college that Drake basketball will play in the NCAA tournament. Drake’s last visit to the big dance was my freshmen year in college, 2008. A fun fact is that Drake was my final four of colleges. The other three included Wichita State, Creighton, and my long shot Pepperdine. With this in mind, I am pumped for this game as one of the first four games. Drake was picked to finish seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference but overcame it to finish second in the league in the regular and tournament behind Loyola-Chicago. The Bulldogs had a tough loss to seal the deal and make the dance after losing in the Missouri Valley Championship game to Loyola-Chicago.

Drake basketball had built a solid resume going 25-4 and was one of the last undefeated teams this year at 19-0. The Bulldogs are also ranked number 45 in the NET metric, and that is why they surprise me to be in the first four. The first four games should be the last 8 teams making the NCAA tournament. In this season, Drake University is 1-2 in quad 1 wins, 5-0 in quad 2 wins, 6-2 in quad 3 wins, and 11-0 in quad 4. Drake basketball is also 53 in Kenpom. Drake is 43 in scoring defense. The Bulldogs are 117th in 3-point attempts. Drake basketball is 25 in assists to turnover ratio is ranked 25th. The Bulldogs are ranked 124th in assists. Drake basketball has an atrocious foul line where it is tied for 267th in fewest fouls. The Bulldogs are ranked the 118th best in field goal percentage defense. Drake shoots the 164th most free throws. The Bulldogs’ free-throw percentage is 71.2%. The Bulldogs are tied for 136th with Oregon State in offensive rebounds per game.

First Four: Wichita State’s Resume

Wichita State played a lot fewer games because all of the teams it could play having Covid pause. The Shockers were a huge surprise for most to be in the tournament based on their NET, but not as much for most of Shocker Nation. This team playing in the first four is a surprise after a tough loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. This basketball team had to overcome losing seven players due to transfer – Erik Stevenson (Washington State), Jamarius Burton (Texas Tech), Grant Sherfield (Nevada), Noah Fernandez (UMass), Asbjorn Midtgaard (Grand Canyon University), Tate Busse (Metro State), and DeAntoni Gordon. This team was picked to finish seventh in the American Athletic Conference. Before the loss of head coach Gregg Marshall to an alleged verbal and physical abuse allegation from players and coaches. The Shockers’ next shock was early in the year when they were sent home from the Bad Boy Mowers tournament due to a positive Covid test. From there, the team did not miss a game due to any of its players having Covid.

Wichita State basketball finished 14-5 on the season. The Shockers went 2-3 in quad 1, 2-1 in quad 2, 6-1 in quad 3, and 4-0 and quad 4 wins. That loss in quad 3 was the big worry for the bracketologist and why they are in the first four. The losses include a last-second 3 from Cade Cunningham and the Oklahoma State Cowboys, a tough loss to Missouri Tigers, a loss to Houston Cougars at Houston, a loss to Memphis Tigers at Memphis, and an American Athletic Conference Semifinal game against the Cincinnati Bearcats. However, Wichita State basketball had notable wins over Oral Roberts, Ole Miss, and Houston to help them get into the first four. Wichita State is ranked 74th in Kenpom. Wichita State is ranked 92nd in scoring defense. The Shockers are 165th in 3-point attempts.  Wichita State basketball is 80th in assists to turnover ratio. The Shockers are ranked 161st in assists. One of Wichita State’s best numbers is actually on the fewest fouls, ranked 51st. The Shockers are also 27th best in field goal percentage defense. Wichita State gets to the free-throw line, the 125th most. The Shockers make 68.1% from the charity stripe. A surprising stat is that Wichita State is the 43rd best offensive rebounding per game team tied with Kentucky.

The History

With both these teams spending time in the Missouri Valley Conference, there is a long history between these two teams. The NCAA selection committee was definitely playing into a narrative. According to Taylor Eldridge of the Wichita Eagle, “The Shockers have faced former Missouri Valley rival, Drake, more than any other team in program history, as WSU leads the series 104-47 and has won the last 11 meetings.” Among these matchups, Wichita State basketball leads the matchup going 103 wins and 46 losses to Drake basketball. The Shockers are currently on an 11 game win streak. Wichita State basketball’s longest win streak was 15 games. Drake basketball’s longest winning streak against the Shockers is seven games. Wichita State’s largest margin of victory was in 2015 when the team put up 74 points and held the Bulldogs to only 40 points. Drake’s largest margin of victory was in 1993 when Drake scored 109 points to Wichita State’s 67 points.

Drake’s Team

Drake basketball is, unfortunately, going to be down a player in Roman Penn in these first four games. He averages 11.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game this year. Penn is a first-team all-conference guard. The team is excited as ShanQuan Hemphill should be playing for his first time in a little over a month. He had surgery for a fracture in his foot on February 11 and could be a huge help in this first four matchup. Hemphill was expected to miss four weeks. Hemphill averages 14.1 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, and 1.5 assists per game this year. However, the team has found a huge spark in Joseph Yesufu and could be dangerous in the tournament and this first four-game. Yesufu is averaging 12.1 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game this year. The rest of the starting five include Darnell Brodie, Tremell Murphy, Garrett Sturtz, and DJ Wilkins. D.J. Wilkins is averaging 10.6 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game this year. Tremell Murphy is averaging 10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game this year. Sturtz is averaging 8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game this season. Darnell Brodie is the leading rebounder on the team. Brodie is averaging 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game this season. These players are all upperclassmen which really helps this team’s case go deep into the tournament if they win these first four matchups.

Wichita State’s Team

Meanwhile, Wichita State basketball will have four to five players playing time from last year, which helps and hurts for this first four matchups. Tyson Etienne is the leader and co-player of the year in the AAC Conference. Etienne is averaging 17 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game this year. After being away from the team and testing the NBA waters, Dexter Dennis returned to the Shockers. Dennis is averaging 9.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game this season. He has really been showing up as a scorer in the second half of the year. The big men are split, with Morris Udeze getting most of the work and Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler as spells but has been dealing with an injury. Udeze is averaging 9.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game this season. Udeze has been one of the most aggressive players for Wichita State in taking charges and second on the team in rebounding. Bear-Chandler is averaging 3.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.2 assists per game this season. Trey Wade is the rebounding leader. Wade averages 6.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game this season. At that point, a big transfer came in and is the assist and steals leader for Wichita State in Alterique Gilbert. Gilbert is handing out 4.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game in his fifth year after transferring from UConn. Wichita State basketball’s surprises are in the forms of transfers and freshmen that could surprise Drake in this first four-game. Clarence Jackson seems to be a huge spark for this team. Craig Porter and Ricky Council have other players that Drake may see if the guards or forwards get into foul trouble in this first four matchup.

Game Plan

If I were Coach Darian DeVries, I would focus on driving the lane and getting the players in foul trouble for Wichita State in these first four play-in games. The size advantage of Darnell Brodie over both the big men for Wichita State standing at 6’10” to their 6’8″ frames. The Bulldogs will likely facilitate the pick-and-roll like they have all year to get Brodie the ball. Drake isn’t known for shooting the 3 balls but does take them and make them keep defenses honest in the first four games. Drake uses a tactic that the Shockers utilize in fake screens that allow the pick player to move toward the basket or to an open spot on the floor. I would expect that Drake will use these to open up D.J. Wilkins or Garrett Sturtz for 3-pointers or driving the lane. Wichita State has size advantages at most of the other positions with size and talent. Coach DeVries should also try to press, trap and play a zone. The Shockers struggle when they are being sped up, leading to turnovers and mistakes as it was the area of weakness against Cincinnati, Memphis, and Houston basketball. Defense and ball movement is a huge part of the key to success in defeating Wichita State. I expect the Bulldogs to try to move the ball, limit the turnovers, and try to rebound the ball in these first four NCAA tournament games. With Hemphill, Drake is 19-1, and it’s due to his ability to create and his athleticism in fast breaks. If the Bulldogs can turnover Wichita State, the transition points can be a huge asset in these first four games. These are areas that Drake can exploit in Wichita State. Being hungry for basketball is one thing that MVC teams are known for and could cause some serious issues for the Shockers. Yesufu is really solid at dribble drives, an area that Wichita State has really struggled with this season. Yesufu has a nose for a rim and has a long wingspan that allows him to shoot over the offender and a soft touch to make his lay-ups. Beyond that, he is a solid 3-point shooter, especially in catch-and-shoot situations.

Wichita State needs either man as the team’s athleticism is more prominent, limiting the assists while causing turnovers in this first four matchups against the Bulldogs. The Shockers will need to communicate on defense which has been an area of strength for this Wichita State team. It can also be a downfall. Drake’s losses are struggling to hand out assists, turning the ball over, or being outrebounded. While Wichita State basketball could outrebound the Bulldogs, it has been a weakness of the Shockers. For offense, the Shockers will need to drive the ball and get to the free-throw line. In the Drake basketball’s losses, the opposing team has shot over 20 free-throws except for Loyola-Chicago, who outrebounded them in one of the contests. The Bulldogs, while being solid when it comes to scoring in transition, also struggles to defend in transition. Wichita State will need to exploit this when it can. Having active hands and getting their hands in the lanes, Wichita State could cause turnovers that lean too fast breaks easy buckets for the Shockers in this first four game. These Shockers will need to stay on their player, keep the player in front of them, and maintain active hands. In any case, these two teams could easily be upset against USC after being in the first four, and both will have a chip on their shoulders.


Featured Image from Dakota Simon’s Twitter (@DakotaSimonTV)
One thought on “First Four Preview: Wichita State vs Drake”
  1. […] In a lull of a first four matchup, Drake basketball defeated Wichita State 53-52. Wichita State had a chance at the buzzer as Alterique Gilbert lifted for a 3-pointer, but a hard clang rang through Mackey Arena as the ball hit the front of the rim. The history of these two teams led people to believe that Wichita State would walk away victorious. […]

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