Wichita State needs Fred VanVleet ASAP: Shockers lose yet another game

Fred VanVleet back on the court would be a game changer for WSU. (USATSI)

Fred VanVleet, your team needs you and it needs you fast. Because Wichita State, which just lost again, was the only team to play in the Orlando-based Advocare Invitational to head home without a win.

On Thanksgiving, the Shockers were bested by USC.

On Friday, Alabama got 'em. (Made all the more interesting, given Gregg Marshall came extremely close to taking the Bama job last spring.)

And on Sunday morning, Wichita State couldn't even keep it competitive against Iowa. The sputtering start got worse for Marshall's hampered group, as the Shockers were manhandled by the Hawkeyes in the event's seventh-place game. Iowa 84, Wichita State 62. Now the Shockers are 2-4, meaning this is the worst start to a season Marshall's had since taking the WSU job in 2007.

It's important to remind everyone how the Shockers are short-staffed, though. A combination of an ankle injury and a tender hamstring kept VanVleet out of Wichita State's past three games. In the Alabama loss, forward Anton Grady took a frightening fall to the floor, but fortunately he's OK and on the mend. Making things even tougher, though: VanVleet's backup, Landry Shamet, could be out for the year due to a foot fracture.

Not one Shocker starter scored in double figures against Iowa. Talk about odd. On the flip side, the 4-2 Hawkeyes had four of their starters go for 12 points or better.

VanVleet is the key, though. Heck, if he returns and Wichita State is able to win its critical, high-profile games on the non-conference schedule, you could start to make the argument no player is more valuable to their team than FVV. Those games, by the way: at Saint Louis on Saturday; home to UNLV on Dec. 9; home to Utah on Dec. 12; at Seton Hall on Dec. 19. Going 4-0 in those games would dramatically reverse Wichita State's profile. Going 3-1 should be the target. Finishing 2-2 or worse, with VanVleet in the lineup, would probably mean the Shockers would have to absolutely dominate the Missouri Valley in order to be in consideration for an at-large bid.

But we'll see.

Right now, Marshall's in a weird spot. It's concerning, surely, to see his team progressively play worse over the past three games. But getting VanVleet back could be something close to a cure-all. He's that poised, that good, that important.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

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