You can’t blame the Wichita State Shockers for, as WWE wrestler Mark Henry would put it, doing what they do. The fifth-ranked Shockers did just that on Saturday afternoon at home, destroying the Indiana State Sycamores 68-48. The win improved Wichita State to 19-0 on the season, one of only three unbeatens left in Division-I. The Shockers are 6-0 and now alone in first place in the MVC.
But if you are looking at the long-term with regard to the MVC, Saturday’s result might not be what the doctor ordered. Going into the game, there was much talk about this being Wichita State’s toughest test of the season so far, given how Indiana State had played up to this point. The Sycamores entered the game 14-3 and 5-0 in the conference, and were coming off a 15-point win over Missouri State — a team that raced out to a 19-point lead against the Shockers last week before Wichita State rallied to win in overtime.
If you are a fan of the Valley, where good basketball has been played f0r decades, you at least wanted to see Indiana State keep Saturday’s game close if you hope to see the conference get two bids into the NCAA Tournament in March. Assuming Wichita State wins the MVC Tournament, Indiana State (14-4, 5-1) is the only team that realistically could snatch an at-large bid into the field of 68. Even if winning at Wichita State on Saturday was out of the question, keeping the game close and losing by six-to-10 points would have been an accomplishment in the minds of the Selection Committee, especially if the Sycamores could upset the Shockers when the teams meet again in Terre Haute, Ind., on Feb. 5.
Instead, the Sycamores got demolished. Down just nine points to start the second half (31-22), Indiana State was down by 21 points before it even hit the 30-point mark on a Dawon Cummings bucket with 11:02 to go that cut the Shockers lead to 50-31. Things really never got any better for Indiana State. Instead of putting up a fight that would have at least made the game close and kept them in the at-large team conversation, the Sycamores fell behind by 28 with 8:42 left on a Ron Baker three-pointer and it was clear there would be no further challenges from Indiana State.
Cummings led Indiana State with 19 points. No other Sycamores player had more than seven. Four Shockers scored in double figures, led by Baker’s 16, despite Baker missing some minutes due to what appeared to be a leg cramp.
Indiana State appears to clearly be the second-best team in the MVC. But what the Sycamores aren’t is comparable to Wichita State. Given the margin of Saturday’s loss, and the struggle of leagues like the MVC in some years to get at-large teams selected, the margin of today’s Shockers win probably did more harm than good to the conference come March.