Gregg Marshall has helped the Shockers to three, and soon-to-be four, straight NCAA Tournament appearances. After making it to the Final Four in 2013, the Shockers were bounced in their second game of the tournament by Kentucky in 2014.
That was the only loss Wichita State incurred last season and it has most of its returning players back this season, but is Wichita State overrated?
According to the polls, the Shockers are the 11th best college basketball team in the country. They are one of five mid-major schools to be ranked in the top 25, and one of two teams to be ranked inside the top 15.
But I don’t think Wichita State is as good as advertised.
Going back to last season, the Shockers only beat two Power Conference schools in Tennessee and Alabama. Tennessee made it to the Sweet 16, somehow, and Alabama was 13-19.
The Shockers have endured three losses this season and a number of close calls. They beat Alabama by one point on Dec. 15, Hawaii by one point on Dec. 23, Bradley by three on Feb. 4, and Illinois State by six on Feb. 14.
I don’t put a lot of stock into their conference schedule because I don’t consider the Missouri Valley Conference to be that strong of a conference. Two teams stand alone while the rest of the conference is average or below.
The MVC ranks 16th among all conferences in total wins (149) and 13th in winning percentage (54.8). Four of the 10 teams have an overall losing record and five teams have a losing record in conference play.
I saw what length and athleticism did the Shockers last season: Kentucky beat them. The Shockers aren’t the most physically imposing team in the country and probably don’t even crack the 50th percentile on that list.
While Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet are pro prospects, according to scouts, I don’t think either are game-changing players. That’s what separates mid-major teams from power-conference teams.
In my opinion, I think the Shockers will get bounced in the Round of 32.
The Shockers surprised people two years ago with their trip to the Final Four, but they won’t be sneaking up on anybody this time. Teams didn’t take them lightly last year, and despite a perfect record, Kentucky handed them their first loss when it mattered most.
Be wary of what teams will stand in Wichita State’s way when the brackets come out.