On Wednesday night, the Wichita State Shockers improved to 20-0 by beating the Illinois State Redbirds 70-55. They join 11 other teams in college basketball to start a season 20-0 in the past 10 years.
It wasn’t easy for the Shockers, as they found themselves down by three entering the half. They had 11 turnovers heading into the break, but rebounded tremendously in the second half. They opened on a 10-1 run and never looked back. Behind 23 points and 10 rebounds from Cleanthony Early, Witchita State pulled out the victory.
The Shockers join some pretty impressive company as they become 20-0, extending their school record for the most wins to start a season. The likes of Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas and Memphis have also started off the season 20-0 in the past 10 years. The longest streak belongs to Illinois when they went 29-0 back in the 2004-05 season.
While you can make a case against the Shockers being undefeated in a weak conference (MVC), there is something about this team that makes them special. They have a leader in Fred VanVleet, a post presence in Cleanthony Early, and Ron Baker can make plays as well. When you look back at their non-conference schedule, they topped two solid SEC schools in Tennessee at home and Alabama on the road.
They play great defense. They are ranked 12th in the country in points allowed and 23rd in defensive rebounds per game. The Shockers have been tested this season in close games, but have also shown the ability to blow teams out.
What makes them even more of a threat is the fact that can make adjustments. Entering the half against the Redbirds on Wednesday night, they didn’t look good. They were out of sorts on offense, but were still able to play solid defense. In the second half, they were a completely different team and that turnaround propelled them to the victory.
Last year, Wichita State advanced all the way to the Final Four, beating Ohio State in the Elite Eight, but lost to eventual champion Louisville by four. This year, the Shockers are looking good enough to make another run. Only this year, maybe they won’t be called Cinderella.