Since their unlikely run in 2013, the Wichita State Shockers have tried unsuccessfully to return to the Final Four every season.
Instead, the team has suffered disappointing losses in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, sometimes as a higher seed — even as a No. 1 seed.
Last season, Wichita State returned to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013, but was unable to get past Notre Dame. A season earlier, the Shockers stormed through the regular season with a perfect record before eventually losing to national runner-up Kentucky in the third round.
Two promising seasons, ending in disappointing fashion.
But this season could be different.
This season appears to be Wichita State’s best chance of returning to the Final Four. The Shockers have a talented team, led by senior All-American guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, and have the experience to make a deep postseason run.
However, the Shockers lost a couple of key contributors from last season who must be replaced — Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter — but welcome two impactful transfers who will fill the void left behind by their predecessors.
Anton Grady comes to Wichita State as a graduate transfer, having previously played at Cleveland State. The 6’8″, 232 lb. forward will step into the role vacated by Carter, and will make an impact on both ends of the floor — he is the only player in Cleveland State history to collect at least 1,000 career points, 600 rebounds, 100 blocks and 100 steals (and he did it all in three seasons).
Last season, Grady was an All-Horizon defensive team pick at Cleveland State, so he is a perfect fit for coach Gregg Marshall’s defense-first mantra.
But that’s not to say that Grady, who averaged 14.2 points per game last season, won’t also contribute on the offensive end.
Expect Grady to be the focal point of the Shockers’ low-post offense, as well as the team’s best interior defender. He should also make major contributions in the rebounding department, and provide veteran senior leadership.
Meanwhile, Frankamp arrives at Wichita State with much less experience, but loaded with potential.
The Wichita native transferred from Kansas midway through his freshman season and will be eligible to play for the Shockers in mid-December.
While he may not be as defensively-gifted as Cotton, he is a far superior shooter. As a matter of fact, Marshall has called Frankamp one of the best shooters he has ever coached, and called him “unbelievably skilled.”
Frankamp’s shooting ability will fit in nicely next to Baker, and will help space the floor for VanVleet to operate in the lane. Experience — Frankamp playerd sparingly at Kansas — and defense are concerns, but he has had a year to become acclimated to Marshall’s system.
If Grady and Frankamp are as good as billed, the Shockers will be a legitimate threat to make the Final Four this season.
Their addition provides Wichita State with depth that it lacked last season. Losing experienced players like Carter and Cotton will be tough for the Shockers to replace, but Grady and Frankamp are more than capable.
Now it’s time to see if the two transfers, paired with the returning core from a Top 10 team, can make a push for another Final Four appearance for the Shockers.