Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:37 PM
The battle rages among college basketball fans and bettors as to whether undefeated Wichita State (25-0) is as good as its record, with the critics saying the Shockers play in a conference weakened by the loss of Creighton, have played a weak schedule and would not be undefeated if they played in one of the major conferences such as the Big Ten, Big 12, the American Athletic Conference or the PAC-12. All those things are true but they do not tell the truth.
Wichita State gained major player status last season when it went to the NCAA Final Four where the Shockers lost to eventual champion Louisville by four points, 72-68. The year before they won the NIT championship-and now they are 25-0 looking at a regular season record of 31-0.
The case for Wichita State's standing among the elite of college basketball has been earned, is well deserved and is by no means an accident. This is a team built by one of the true geniuses of college basketball coach-Gregg Marshall who arrived in Wichita seven years ago after taking unknown Winthrop of the Big South Conference into the Top 25 and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
He is the master in the world of basketball recruiting, coaching and game preparation. He was heavily recruited after last season by colleges looking for a new coach and the same thing will happen again this year. He makes more than $2 million a year at Wichita State and the school is prepared to match any offer from any other schools.
Keep in mind the Wichita State basketball program is backed by those multi-billionaire Koch brothers who are hated by the political liberals of the land and who love the university in the town where they were born and lived for all their lives, and where their privately-held natural resources conglomerate is located. There is a reason the structure in which the Shockers play carries the name Charles Koch Arena.
Money will not be an issue in retaining Marshall. Please note the Wichita State basketball team is one of the few teams in the country that travels to all its games on a charter jet.
A Little Wichita State Background
All college basketball fans-including those of Wichita State-are entitled to their opinions and it certainly is expected Duke fans will love Duke, Syracuse fans will love Syracuse and Michigan State fans will love Michigan State etc. As for the media pundits who claim to be all-knowing about college basketball they are entitled only to the facts which, in the case of Wichita State, they simply ignore.
It seems strange to be writing in defense of a team that is 25-0 but I must do that. I also must point out I am a native of Wichita and have been an avid follower of the Shockers since the days another coaching genius, the late Ralph Miller, put the school on the map, even taking the Shockers to the Final Four.
I sat in the old roundhouse and witnessed some of the best college basketball in the country, watching such teams as the great undefeated San Francisco Dons-led Bill Russell put on a life-and-death performance to beat the Shockers and those battles with NCAA champion Cincinnati were the things of which legends were made.
As for how good this Wichita State team is, one must face the facts and I must note my numbers on all 351 NCAA Division I basketball teams tell me that the top 20 teams are all rated with less than five points separating them. In other words, #1 is no more than five points better than #20, if that. Put them all on a neutral floor and you will see some of the best basketball ever played.
It also should be noted Wichita State is no Johnny-Come-Lately in college basketball. In addition to its one-the-court success dating back to the late 1950s, the school has produced four #1 NBA draft choices-Xavier McDaniel, Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston and Dave Stallworth-not a long list but certainly a good one.
Building For The Now And The Future
The first and most important fact any college basketball or football team is that it is not built overnight and that is the reason most coaches seek a five-year contract when they sign on. It takes about that long to build a team that is going to go places and that is just what Marshall has done. His seven-year record reflects just that.
2007-08-Shockers went 11-20.
2008-09-Shockers went 17-17 and made it to the second round of CBI Tournament.
2009-10-Shockers went 25-10 and made it to the NIT.
2010-11-Shockers went 29-8 and won NIT as the #4 seed, beating #1 seed Virginia Tech in semifinal game, 78-76, and #1 seed Alabama, 62-59, in championship game.
2011-12-Shockers went 27-6 and went to NCAA, losing in 2nd round to VCU, 62-59. Wichita State lost five of its six leading scorers, including four starters, and it was assumed the good times would end the following season, but it did not happen.
2012-13-Shockers went 30-9 and went to NCAA as a #9 seed and made it to the Final Four, with these results:
--Wichita State, 73, #8 Pittsburgh 55
--Wichita State 76, #1 Gonzaga 70
--Wichita State 72, #13 La Salle 58
--Wichita State 70, #2 Ohio State 66
--#1 Louisville 72, Wichita State 68 (Final Four)
Success such as this is no accident and is the perfect example of a coach building for now and for the future. The Shockers returned three starters off last year's team but one that included a roster of talented players who, as do all Wichita State reserves, booked a ton of playing time last season.
And here we are: 25-0 with six games to go.
The Facts Speak For Themselves
The first thing good teams do is to win on the road, something even mediocre teams seldom do, and Wichita State has the best road record dating back to three seasons ago. The Shockers are 10-0 straight up (SU) and 9-1 against the spread (ATS) on the road this season, giving them an NCAA-best road record of 35-8 over the past three seasons. That is simply an amazing number that illustrates this team's class and ability.
It is somewhat useless to attempt to compare how teams fared against common opponents but for the sake of illustrations I am going to do just that with Wichita State and Florida.
Florida is ranked 3rd in The Associated Press Top 25 poll and 4th in the USA Today-ESPN poll. Wichita State is ranked 4th in The AP poll and 2nd in the USA Today. The first poll is a media poll, the USA-ESPN poll is the opinion of coaches.
In the very important world of the RPI that ranks NCAA teams, Florida holds down the 5th spot and has played the 53rd toughest schedule in the country. Wichita State checks in at 6th and 98th.
- Wichita State holds a signature road win over 12th-ranked St. Louis (22-2), 70-65.
- Florida holds a signature road win over 20th-ranked Memphis (18-5), 77-75.
- Wichita State and Florida have played two common opponents-Alabama (9-14) and Tennessee (15-8).
- Florida has beaten Alabama twice, at home78-69 and on the road, 68-62, and Tennessee at home, 67-41.
- Wichita State won at Alabama, 72-67, and beat Tennessee in Wichita, 70-61.
It is questionable as to what this means, but it at least gives some comparative results.
Shockers Have Ability To Play Every One's Games
Most college basketball teams-those nationally ranked and those not ranked-have a profile on either offense or defense, or both, that befuddle many opponents. Wichita State has proven it has no identifiable profile.
There are two things apparent about the Shockers:
1. If you want to run, they will run with you until they wear you out-and then they will run over you.
2. If you want to play the slow-walking, they will join you and play your game until you lose your focus-and then they will run over you.
Only a very good team can keep beating all-comers at their own game.
I could write a book filled with reasons why Wichita State is an elite team-possible even better
than its record-but this will at least give a quick lesson in what is behind its success.
For the record, Wichita State is 17-5-1 ATS this season, a fact that drives home the lack of respect it gets from both sides of the counter.