Wichita State begins the post-Gregg Marshall era when the Shockers tip off the season against Utah State in the first round of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Wednesday.
The pairing on opening day of the three-day event pits two of last season's winningest teams, with the Shockers having gone 23-8 in a year in which they rose at one point to 16th in the polls, while the Aggies got as high as 15th en route to a 26-8 finish.
The 20-win season was the 11th straight for the Shockers under Marshall, who took over a program in 2007 that had accumulated a total of eight NCAA Tournament bids in 100 previous seasons and went dancing seven straight times from 2012-18.
Marshall resigned last week amid an internal investigation into alleged physical and verbal abuse within the Wichita State program. Assistant Isaac Brown will begin this season as the team's interim head coach. Brown will be making his head-coaching debut, having served as an assistant the past 18 seasons at five stops.
"I know this is a difficult time for our kids," he noted after being informed of the promotion. "But we will come together as a team. I want these guys to have a lot of fun."
The Shockers' transition won't just be on the bench. They've lost their three leading scorers from last season, with Jaime Echinique (11.3 ppg) having graduated, while Erik Stevenson (11.1 ppg) and Jamarius Burton (10.3 ppg) transferred to Washington and Texas Tech, respectively.
Dexter Dennis (9.2 ppg) and Tyson Etienne (9.4 ppg) are considered the two top returners on a roster that will feature three junior college transfers, including highly regarded Craig Porter Jr., whose Vincennes (Ind.) University team went 62-7 the last two years.
Utah State will also have big shoes to fill this season, but it won't be the coach's. Leading scorer Sam Merrill, one of the top players in program history, has since taken his 19.7-point scoring average to the NBA.
Utah State is expecting a big season from Neemias Queta, the former Portuguese national team standout who was the Mountain West Conference Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.
Queta, who set a school single-season block record (84) as a freshman, suffered a knee injury in FIBA competition and played only 10 games last season, though he did average 15.6 points in those contests while leading the Aggies to the Mountain West Conference Tournament title.
"Queta looks great," Utah State coach Craig Smith said. "He stayed here all summer. He took the advice from NBA personnel and has worked really hard. He is moving better than he has ever moved."
--Field Level Media