Takeaways from WSU win include McDuffie’s big game
Wichita State delivered an 83-80 victory over Providence on Friday in the Veterans Classic. Providence had received some votes in balloting for The Associated Press’ preseason Top 25.
After losing to Louisiana Tech by 11, the first time WSU had lost a home opener since 1995, the Shockers responded in a big way on a national stage. Senior Markis McDuffie scored a career-high 32 points.
Here are some takeaways from The Eagle’s Taylor Eldridge.
1. ‘I LET MY GAME DO THE TALKING’
Yes, Tuesday’s performance against Louisiana Tech was below average from the Shockers.
But for players on a young team still trying to find themselves in their first game, there were a few too many grumblings inside Koch Arena. Afterward, many fans took to social media to criticize the play of seniors Markis McDuffie and Samajae Haynes-Jones.
Both responded by playing standout games on Friday: McDuffie went for 32 and Haynes-Jones added 15 points and a career-high eight assists to lead the Shockers past Providence.
“It’s amazing just reading and hearing and keeping my ears to the ground how many people were so negative about Markis and so negative about Samajae because they didn’t shoot the ball or play particularly well in the first game of their senior year,” Wichita State coach
Gregg Marshall said. “I can’t really tell you what my sentiments are toward those people right now.”
Sometimes it’s hard for players to block out all outside noise. They sometimes see negative things written about them on social media. They’re human and those things can hurt.
Instead of dwelling on the negative, McDuffie kept a clear head and played perhaps the best game of his Shockers career on Friday.
“I thought I stayed poised and let my game do the talking,” McDuffie said.
2. ‘I FEEL LIKE I HAVE A SHOCKER TEAM BACK’
Friday’s thrilling win should erase the memory of Tuesday’s season-opening loss.
WSU avoided its first 0-2 start since the 1990-91 season by competing at the level Marshall is accustomed to. After shaky performances in the exhibition and season opener, WSU returned to its roots against Providence.
“I feel like I have a Shocker team back,” Marshall said.
Marshall said many of WSU’s newcomers have likely “been told how great they are their entire lives.” They came to WSU with aspirations of starting, of starring, of playing in the NBA someday. Then Tuesday’s loss snapped them out of that dream state.
They came to the realization they had to work even harder at WSU. The players responded with two great practices, Marshall said, and their efforts carried over to Friday’s game. Finally, Marshall could be proud
two more years of club control. But, as a crude instrument, the comparison works.
Back then, the Royals sent Greinke to Milwaukee for a package headlined by Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. They also received Jake Odorizzi, who became a key piece in the trade that brought James Shields and Wade Davis. Nothing in baseball is linear, but it is highly unlikely the Royals could have won the 2015 World Series without that specific trade.
But getting there was a hot mess. Greinke had made his desire for a trade known, so the Royals cycled through many conversations. They were close with a few, most notably the Nationals, who agreed on a package headlined by Jordan Zimmerman and Derek Norris. The deal was dependent on the Nationals signing Greinke to an extension. Instead, he invoked his no-trade clause.
The Braves, Red Sox, Rays, Yankees and Dodgers are potential fits for the Royals and Merrifield in different ways.
But at least at the moment, a significant obstacle to a deal is the Royals’ internal belief that time is on their side because ...
No. 2: The Royals don’t want to go backward
The 2018 season ended with a modicum of promise but in many ways was a disaster. They lost 104 games, tied for secondmost in franchise history, and suffered their largest one-year average attendance drop ever. All of this with an opening day payroll that pushed $130 million, and an antiquated TV contract that (thankfully) has just one year remaining.
Financially, it was a disaster.
So, trading Merrifield would not save money, but it mean a worse team. Publicly, Moore has been pushing the message that he will no longer use the word “rebuild.” Trading Merrifield would be a full rebuke.
Financially, then, it could be another disaster.
Moore cares deeply about what baseball means to fans. As much as anything else, this is his guiding principle, for better or worse.
Alex Gordon’s contract will be up after 2019. Sal Perez is a proud All-Star. Danny Duffy loves the organization in a rare and deep way. Players understand
the business side of baseball. Heck, they usually benefit from it.
No. 3: The Royals don’t yet know what they’ll need
Merrifield’s talent and versatility will always be valuable, for instance, but the Royals’ need for him at second base will be influenced by Lopez’s development.
In that way, holding onto Merrifield serves several purposes simultaneously: projects hope and confidence to players and fans, helps maintain culture of professionalism in the clubhouse, creates the best possible team for 2019, provides time to see what might be needed in a few years, and retains the ability to trade a presumably still valuable asset next summer or winter.
This is who Moore’s Royals have always been.