The Wichita State Shockers are a good basketball team. They haven’t finished a season with less than 25 wins in any of the past five seasons, perpetually stir up trouble in March and seemed to have found their ideal leader in coach Gregg Marshall. Additionally, they’ve overcome the disadvantage of having to lure recruits to unremarkable Wichita to compete in a mid-major conference which is certainly no easy task.
In years past, the Shockers have entered the NCAA tournament as a fan favorite; they’re a hard-nosed, scrappy bunch that doesn’t necessarily have any stars but simply play fundamental, team basketball. But don’t expect that to be the case this year. Wichita State has taken the brunt of college basketball angst throughout their currently-undefeated season. Not Duke, not Kentucky, but the Wichita State Shockers.
Why? Do people inherently desire something, anything, to despise? I’ll leave that to the psychologists, but several Shox-opposers cite the weakness of the Missouri Valley Conference as the source of their dislike. While the Valley certainly isn’t one of the strongest conferences in the nation, one can’t simply disregard a team’s accomplishments because of this. There’s still a plethora of weaker conferences out there, yet no program has dominated them as Wichita State has the MVC.
The rest of the hate likely stems from the team’s undefeated status and inside track to a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament. Are the Shockers worthy of being labeled as one of the nation’s top four teams? It’s debatable, but barring an unforeseen slip-up during the final stretch of the regular season, it’s a reality that major conference apologists will soon have to come to terms with. Unfortunately, the NCAA hasn’t yet implemented the BCS system in basketball, and the chances of an undefeated team being denied a top seed is slim-to-none.
Many reference last year’s Gonzaga Bulldogs squad when speaking of this year’s Shocker team, which is mildly ironic, considering that the overrated Zags were actually bounced by Wichita State in only the third round of the 2013 NCAA tournament. Yes, both are extremely successful mid-major programs who faced an undeserved amount of scrutiny, but the similarities end there.
This year’s Shocker squad has become one of college basketball’s most well-rounded under the tutelage of Marshall. They’re the only team in the nation to lead their league in both scoring offense and defense and have excelled at quick ball movement to create looks around the key. While it was quite obvious that 2013-14’s Gonzaga was a bit of a fraud, the same cannot be said about Wichita State. This team is certainly for real.
I’ll reiterate that this wouldn’t even be topic of discussion if the Shockers had even one blemish on their record at this juncture. It’s merely the fact that they’re undefeated when they supposedly shouldn’t be that’s evoked endless criticisms from analysts and fans alike. Stuff a sock in it, haters.
When Selection Sunday rolls around in March and Wichita State grabs the N0. 1 seed, don’t be surprised when a resurgence of Shox-related hate rears its ugly head for the duration of the season. Fans should take pride in the idea that the entire nation is waiting for them to fall flat on their face, simply to remark, “I told you so.” It comes with the territory of being a preeminent college basketball program. Enjoy it.