Tulsa Primed to Make Noise After Beating Wichita State

Posted by Jared Kotler on November 19th, 2015

In only its second season in the American, Tulsa scored a significant early victory in beating #9 Wichita State. Last year, despite a 21-9 regular season record which included only four conference losses, Tulsa was left outside of the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68. One reason for that snub was the lack of quality wins on the Golden Hurricane’s resume. They had played a relatively tough schedule but couldn’t seem to find a way to win the big games, whiffing on non-conference opportunities against Wichita State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (also of note from last year’s pre-conference slate: an embarrassing loss to Division II Southeast Oklahoma State). Heading into this year, Tulsa knew it had an opportunity to redeem itself in this early-season meeting with the Shockers. Frank Haith’s squad cashed in this time, and Tulsa fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic given how the team has performed so far this season.

Marquel Curtis has broken out offensively and looks to help lead Tulsa to the top of the American. (Tulsa World.

Marquel Curtis has broken out offensively and looks to help lead Tulsa to the top of the American. (Tulsa World)

So what seems to be the difference-maker for this year’s team? For one thing, the Golden Hurricane have come out firing on all cylinders, particularly on the offensive end. Although we are looking at an extremely small sample size, examining the effective field goal percentage as a team gives an interesting look into Tulsa’s early success. According to KenPom, Tulsa had a team effective field goal percentage of 47.1 percent a season ago, ranking among the worst groups in the country (241st nationally). This number has jumped dramatically over two games this season, to 61.7 percent, giving Tulsa the 19th-highest effective team field goal percentage in college hoops as of today.

When looking at a team poised to rise, veteran leadership is always a plus. One of the keys to Tulsa’s early success has been the return of nearly every starter. The large number of returning players has allowed the group another offseason together to grow and build on their previous team chemistry. One player in particular who has made a jump so far this season is Marquel Curtis. The senior filled the stat sheet against Wichita State, making his impact felt with 16 points, including two makes from beyond the arc and 6-of-8 shooting from the foul line. Just two games into the 2015-16 campaign, Curtis owns the highest KenPom offensive rating on the team at 136.8 (a 40-point increase from last year’s rating of 96.5). Making this number a bit more impressive is the fact that Curtis has been slightly less involved in this year’s offense, as his minutes played percentage has decreased from 67.9 percent to 63.8 percent. The senior has also elevated his effective field percentage as a corresponding result. During the 2014-15 season, Curtis finished with an eFG rate of 50.5 percent. Again, it’s a tiny, tiny sample size, but he currently boasts an eFG rate of 75.0 percent, nearly 25 percentage points higher than a season ago.

If Tulsa can get this type of production from Curtis throughout the season, look for the team to thrive, especially given the two main offensive weapons the team already has in Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard. The Golden Hurricane were slept on a bit in the preseason, but Tulsa looks to be re-energized and ready to battle Cincinnati, Connecticut and SMU for the American crown this season.

Jared Kotler (9 Posts)

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