Wich Hunt – Can We Please Take Wichita State Seriously?

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There are plenty of people who think head coach Gregg Marshall and the Wichita State Shockers are for real but there are also plenty who seem to think their success is a fluke. Here’s some info that just came in that may sway the haters – they’re up to number two in the country and received 14 first-place votes in today’s AP Top 25 poll.

Twenty-nine wins. Zero losses. Only one team has amassed this number of wins to start a season without a loss since 2004-05 – Deron Williams and Illinois. The Illini lost their final regular season game before advancing to the National Championship game before bowing to North Carolina.

One major difference between the two teams is that Wichita State has a win over non-DI Emporia State mixed in to their 29 wins, so are they really 29-0? Another difference is the Big Ten’s RPI in 2004-05 was 5th compared to the Missouri Valley Conference, whose ranked 11th in conference RPI this year.

Their success certainly isn’t something new.

The people in Wichita should be counting their lucky stars that Gregg Marshall took over seven years ago. The first two seasons were mired in mediocrity – 11-20 followed by 17-17. Since then, all he’s done is lead the Shockers to a 140-33 record, two MVC regular season titles, the 2011 NIT Championship, and a trip to the Final Four just a season ago. No big deal.

There is one gripe that constantly seems to surface and it’s this (in a whiny, nasally voice): “They don’t play any one good.”

Their “signature win” is a five-point win at now-No. 10 Saint Louis.

They’ve played 29 games and have yet to face a ranked team and have faced only two in the RPI top-50 (Saint Louis and BYU).

Their strength of schedule is just 112th in the country. Teams in their own conference have better SOS than the Shockers. Northern Iowa’s is 83. Evansville’s in 109. That is partly skewed because those teams have to face Wichita State, but you get the idea.

Sure the Missouri Valley isn’t the strongest mid-major conference in the country. According to CBSSports.com, the MVC is only fifth among mid-majors in conference RPI.

Lost on all the doubters is the fact that Wichita State does a lot of things extremely well besides having a balanced offensive attack featuring four players averaging better than 10 points per game.

They play solid defense – they’re 16th in the country in points per game allowed (60.8 ppg). They make their free throws – they’re 10th in made free throws (566) and have made more FTs than their opponents have attempted (557). They attack the glass – they’re 24th in the country with 38.7 rebounds per game.

So you see, they’re not 29-0 by accident.

With two games remaining in the regular season, a perfect regular season is in the crosshairs. They need to get past an inconsistent Bradley squad before their regular season finale at home against Missouri State, who gave Wichita State all it could handle in a 72-69 loss earlier this year.

Whichever way you slice it, 29-0 is 29-0 (unless you discount the non-DI win). Regardless of who you play, you still have to compete at a high level and ultimately win the game. They’re getting every team’s best shot and they’ve handled it perfectly. It’ll be fun to see how long Wichita State can keep their unblemished record intact.

They’re the last team left with a chance to do what no men’s college basketball program has done since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers – run the table wire to wire and win the National Championship. Can they shock the world?

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