Keeler: Nothing shocking about the Shockers
Now that football season is gone, I’ve found myself paying a lot more attention to college basketball.
I’ll be the first to admit, with Duke in an early-season slump (three losses is a bad start when you’re a Duke fan) I wasn’t paying as much attention to college basketball as I could have. So, I’ve tried to catch up in the last few weeks.
I saw that Arizona was having a strong year, and they have a good team. Syracuse and that darn zone was rolling along until a loss on Wednesday night. Virginia is having a great season as well, and giving local fans plenty to cheer about. However, one team has really caught my eye — Wichita State.
There’s nothing really shocking about the Shockers’ 28-0 start. They are the only undefeated team left in the country.
When I saw they were one of two undefeated teams left last weekend, I quickly remembered the Shockers were in the Final Four last year, and they have a fair amount back, including coach Gregg Marshall.
Granted they haven’t played the toughest schedule, no Top 25 teams, but the bottom line is they’re winning games.
Cleanthony Early, Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton (You have to love this team, if just for the names) give the Shockers a solid nucleus of players who have big-game experience.
Much like last year, there’s nothing fancy about the Shockers. They rebound the ball well and play solid team defense. They are only ranked 72nd in points, and 132nd in field goal percentage. However, they are 23rd in rebounding.
They play together as a team, and that’s one of the reasons that I like them. Last year I enjoyed watching them, and couldn’t help but root for them as the NCAA Tournament went on.
The critics say that they haven’t played a tough enough schedule, and while that may be true, when the NCAA Tournament comes around I think their experience could help them go on another big run.
They are currently ranked No. 3 in the USA Today and AP polls. I don’t feel like they are getting the respect they deserve, but one of the things I love most about college basketball is that when tournament time comes around you earn your respect.
If the Shockers make it back to the Final Four, which I think they have a good shot at doing, many critics will have to give them some respect.
Right now the Shockers are on the verge of pulling off a rare undefeated regular season. They have three games left, all in the Missouri Valley. They have a home game with 14-13 Drake on Saturday. The last game of the season will probably be their toughest. They face 17-10 Missouri State, who they beat 72-69 in overtime on Jan. 11.
The Shockers should win their conference tournament and enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated and a No. 1 seed. That will put more pressure on Wichita State, but I think the Shockers can handle it.
No team has went undefeated since Indiana in 1976, and I don’t think Wichita State will do it this year. I do think the Shockers could go back to the Final Four.
I’m not giving up on Duke, and I will be rooting for them to win it all like I always do. But I will also be rooting for the Shockers, and picking them to do well in my brackets.
I enjoy the way they play, and I think if they go far this year no one can really say that they were shocked.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd