Last spring, after one of the most successful seasons in school history, Wichita State waved farewell to five seniors. Those five seniors were the team's most-used players, its stars -- guard Toure' Murray and center Garrett Stutz particularly. Everyone expected the Shockers to do what mid-major teams that lose five starters do: fall back and rebuild.
Wichita State had other ideas in mind. Led by lineup newcomers like Cleanthony Early and transfer Malcolm Armstead, as well as an emergent performance from senior forward Carl Hall, Gregg Marshall's team began the season 9-0, a tone they set with an impressive November 13 win at VCU.
This is no rebuild. This is just another really good team -- one of the surprises of the season to date.
And … cue Murphy's Law, because now everybody is getting hurt.
On Tuesday afternoon, Wichita State announced that freshman Ron Baker (7.3 points, 2.6 rebounds per game) would miss the next six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. Which would be unfortunate but hardly devastating, were it an isolated incident. It is not. Just one day earlier, WSU announced that Hall -- the team's leading scorer to date -- will miss four weeks with a broken right thumb. Guard Evan Wessel is also injured with a broken right pinky. We got no food, we got no jobs … our players' fingers are falling off! And, if you can believe it, center Ehimen Orukpe was injured, but he's back now; he played in last week's loss at Tennessee.
That is four starters that have been injured at one point or another for Wichita State this season, and three currently. And it is not even January yet. That is brutal.
And as Dauster points out, the timing still couldn't get much worse:
Wichita State kicks off league play by hosting Northern Iowa on Dec. 30th. Odds are good that they will still be a week or two away from full strength when they host Illinois State and Creighton in back-to-back games on January 16th and 19th. What that means is the Shockers will be forced to play their three toughest league foes shorthanded at home.
Yeah, you never want to lose three starters at any point in the season -- Obvious Statement of the Year Award nominee right there -- but barring the Valley tournament or the start of the Big Dance, Wichita State's spate of broken extremities really couldn't have come at a worse possible time.