Arizona (3-0) vs. Wichita State (3-0)
Las Vegas Main Event
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas Time: 8 p.m.
TV: ESPNU Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
G — Kerr Kriisa (6-3 sophomore)
G — Dalen Terry (6-6 sophomore)
F — Bennedict Mathurin (6-6 sophomore)
F — Azuolas Tubelis (6-11 sophomore)
C — Christian Koloko (7-0 junior)
G — Qua Grant (6-1 junior)
G — Tyson Etienne (6-2 sophomore)
F — Dexter Dennis (6-5 junior)
F — Joe Pleasant (6-7 junior)
C — Morris Udeze (6-8 junior)
HOW THEY MATCH UP
The series: Arizona has only faced Wichita State once in the past 67 years and it was a painful game for the Wildcats. Coming out of an add-on “First Four” NCAA Tournament game, the Shockers beat Arizona 65-55 in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament in part because UA guard Allonzo Trier shot 4 for 12 and had four turnovers. The Wildcats and Shockers also split games played in the 1951-52 and 1954-55 seasons, with each winning on its home floor.
Game agreement: Wichita State and Arizona are playing in the first bracketed game of the Las Vegas Main Event, with the winner to face the winner of Friday’s Michigan-UNLV game. Both the Shockers and Wildcats also played add-on Main Event games Tuesday on their home floors, with UA beating North Dakota State 97-45 and Wichita State beating Tarleton State 65-51.
Wichita State overview: Isaac Brown was a unanimous choice as American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year last season, when he took over for the embattled Gregg Marshall shortly before the season began and led the Shockers to a 11-2 conference record and a berth in the NCAA First Four (Wichita State lost to Drake 53-52). A report had detailed alleged abuse by Marshall toward his players and Marshall left after an internal school investigation.
WSU has started out this season well, too. Like Arizona, the Shockers have gotten off to a 3-0 start by playing three lower-level opponents on their home floor and smothering them with defense. But they do it a little differently, aiming to play a slower pace and create turnovers, while UA has excelled at keeping opponent shooting percentages low. WSU has forced its opponents into turning the ball over 20.0% of the time, the 31st highest defensive turnover percentage in the country. On Tuesday, the Shockers forced Tarleton State into 20 turnovers and scored 21 points off them. However, Wichita State hasn’t been nearly as efficient offensively, shooting just 39.1% overall and 30.4% from 3-point range.
The Shockers went without guard Tyson Etienne for Tuesday night’s game because of an unspecified illness but Brown said he'll play Friday. The AAC’s co-Player of the Year last season along with Houston’s Quentin Grimes, Etienne returned from the NBA Draft pool to join a core of experienced players that also include big man Morris Udeze and 3-and-D wing player Dexter Dennis. Off the bench, forward Clarence “Monzy” Jackson brings energy and rebounding, while the Shockers signed Abilene Christian transfer forward Joe Pleasant, who hit two free throws to help seal a historic NCAA Tournament upset over Texas last season. Freshman wing Ricky Council has been the Shockers’ leading scorer so far, averaging 12.0 points while hitting 5 of 11 3-pointers.
He said it: “They're definitely a good defensive ballclub. They’ve traditionally always had good defense. They're tough. They're scrappy, hard-nosed. You're gonna have to fight for everything you get. They get out and passing means they really dig and rake on the drive. You’re gonna have to be strong and tough with the ball. We have to take care of the basketball and can't score points if you don't get shots at the rim.”
Etienne “is physical when he drives. He can shoot it from deep. You don't want him to get hot because when he makes one, he usually makes two or three. He plays with a lot of confidence and swagger and you have to guard him with multiple guys. You have to use some length and some quickness, don't give him any free space. But he's good -- every team in the American (Athletic Conference) tried to do that last year and he was still able to score. There's a reason he was preseason player of the year.
“They returned six of their eight guys from their NCAA Tournament team and the two guys they brought in who play, Joe Pleasant and (Qua) Grant — Pleasant played for Abilene Christian and Grant played for a championship in Division II. This is an experienced team with a lot of postseason wins and minutes under their belt,
"They're certainly a great challenge for us and it's not just Etienne. They’re 3-0 and Etienne hasn't even played well yet. He hasn't been 100%. So it’s given those other guys that great opportunity.” — UA associate head coach Jack Murphy, who scouted the Shockers
WICHITA STATE: Tyson Etienne
Etienne is expected to be the best player Arizona has faced so far this season, an elite shooter who made 39.4% of his 3-pointers and knows how to get to the line. He drew an average of 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes last season and hit free throws at a 76.4% rate. He’s also well-regarded for his work ethic.
ARIZONA: Dalen Terry
The potential Terry flashed at times as a freshman has come through more often so far this season The Wildcats’ leader in assists, Terry has played well enough on both ends of the floor to kept a starting spot on a team loaded with talented, experienced perimeter players.
Before he put up a season-high 15 points while hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers against North Dakota State on Tuesday, UA forward Bennedict Mathurin took off his headband and let his hair out.
“Did he have a new look?” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said, smiling. “I didn’t even notice."
Lloyd took the same view toward guard Kerr Kriisa, who hit 4 of 8 3-pointers against the Bison while deciding to keep his headband on. Lloyd had previously said Kriisa could wear a headband if he made good decisions and played well, but this time Lloyd dismissed fashion choices all together.
“I don't even know if he had a headband. I swear to God,” Lloyd said. “I don't notice any of that stuff. I don't notice headbands, arm sleeves, shoe colors. I'm there to watch basketball.”
Good omens: One reason for the Wildcats’ 3-0 start and exhibition win might be the way Lloyd ends pregame shootarounds: By having every player and staffer — even managers and trainer Justin Kokoskie — take two halfcourt shots.
A high school shooting star who played at Division III Whitman College, Lloyd has made one of his two shots during four shootarounds — a effective rate of 40%. His makes have been featured on UA’s social media channels.
“I just told the guys, 'You shoot to make it,’ “ Lloyd said. “I made it before four of the five games, so it’s kind of a trend.”
For the record, according to UA, special assistant coach TJ Benson — a former player at Weber State and GCU — has hit three total halfcourt shots while associate head coach Jack Murphy, conditioning coach Chris Rounds, and player development director Rem Bakamus have each hit one.
For Wichita State star Etienne, the new ability for college athletes to profit from name, image and likeness activities meant helping charity and displaying his photography hobby.
A native of Englewood, N.J., Etienne hosted an exhibition in downtown Wichita entitled “What do you see?” featuring his photographs of New York City at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Proceeds from select photos were given to Starkey, a local charity that serves people with disabilities.
“Everybody has a different perspective,” Etienne said at the exhibition, according to The Sunflower, Wichita State's student newspaper. “I’m just here to show how I capture it. I captured New York City during COVID-19, a city that always has people on the streets, empty and just giving people a different perspective.
“Everybody here is mostly from Wichita, Kansas and they only see New York in the movies and in the pictures and stuff. I wanted to give my own interpretations of the environments. What they see in the frame and in the lens is what they depict from it.”
Etienne told The Sunflower he developed a passion for photography when sidelined with an ankle injury as a high school freshman.
“My mom was like ‘You need to take the camera and go somewhere and get out of the house," ” Etienne said. “From that point, I remember going down to that river and taking pictures of the city and I just loved the feeling of it and ever since it’s been a hobby of mine.”
Arizona’s national rank in ratio of assists to made field goals, 74.0%.
Arizona’s national rank in “average height,” a Kenpom metric that takes the average listed height of every player on the team and weighs it by minutes played. The Wildcats, who start two 6-6 wings, 6-11 power forward Azuolas Tubelis and 7-foot center Christian Koloko, average 6-foot-7.2 inches by this metric.
Isaac Brown’s ranking among Wichita State head coaches over their first 25 games in the job (19-6). The Shockers went 16-6 last season and are 3-0 so far this season.