The longest winning streak in NCAA Basketball was extended on Saturday night as the third-ranked Wichita State Shockers defeated the Drake Bulldogs 83-54, to improve to 29-0 on the season. Wichita State has two remaining regular season games: next Tuesday away at the Bradley Braves and next Saturday at home against the Missouri State Bears. Wins in these two games will make Wichita State the first team to finish their regular season unbeaten since the 2004 Saint Joseph’s Eagles finished 27-0 before losing in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Wichita State has already secured the top seed going into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in two weeks. The regular season championship is the second in three years and the seventh title since the conference was formed in 1964. It also continues a run of five consecutive years finishing in the league’s top two.
One of the things that make Gregg Marshall‘s team so dangerous is their balance — both on the score-sheet and on the make-up of the roster. Wichita State has four players who average ten or more points per game senior Cleanthony Early (16.3 ppg), junior Tekele Cotton (10.0) and sophomores Ron Baker (13.3) and Fred VanVleet (12.2). This balance makes it extremely difficult to defend the Shockers as they have other options to rely on if the opponent focus on shutting down one of the four.
It’s very easy to see the balance of Wichita State when looking at their roster; they have four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and seven freshmen (three of whom actually see playing time). The seniors and sophomores are very close in terms of playing time with each class earning approximately 36 percent of the total minutes played.
The biggest issue that will need to be addressed going into next season will be the size. Wichita State’s four seniors are all big players Chadrack Lufile and Kadeem Coleby both stand 6-foot-9 while Cleanthony Early and Nick Wiggans stand 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-6 respectively. The four account for 39.5 percent of the team’s points and a whopping 46.1 percent of the rebounds.
Gregg Marshall looks like he has addressed the size issue with the incoming recruiting class which includes a 6-foot-7 small forward, two power forwards and a 7-foot center. The center is a junior college transfer named Bush Wamukota, he is currently a sophomore and will have two years of remaining eligibility once he joins the Shockers next season.
The question now becomes how far can Wichita State go on this unbeaten run? First thing is first, they will need to get through a difficult road test. Bradley may be struggling this season but Wichita State already has the regular season crowd and No. 1 seed going into the conference tournament locked up. All they really have left to play for in the final two games is the perfect season.