Remember last year when the Gonzaga Bulldogs earned a No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history? Some criticized the ranking because of a weak schedule while others defended the Zags with the argument: “They’ve beaten every school they’ve played. It’s not their fault their conference is weak.”
Regardless of what the talking heads of the sports world thought of the poll, Gonzaga entered the NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed and proceeded to lose in the round of 32 to the Wichita State Shockers. The critics rejoiced in their victory.
Fittingly, the Shockers who dethroned the Zags in the tournament last year have assumed the role of mid-major titan. By beating the Bradley Braves 69-49 on Tuesday night, the No. 2 ranked team in the nation improved to 30-0 on the season (the lone undefeated team in college basketball) and are now one win away from a perfect regular season.
I’m not going to treat Wichita State like Gonzaga was treated last year. I’m not going to harp on the fact that they haven’t played a ranked opponent all season or the fact that their toughest non-conference game was played at home against the Brigham Young Cougars. Honestly, none of it matters – and the Shockers should know that better than anyone.
Their win over the Zags last year proved that team records and rankings are meaningless in college basketball. The only numbers that do matter are the ones on the scoreboard at the end of each game. It’s a lesson the Syracuse Orange learned the heard way this lesson when its program-best 25-0 start ended on its home court at the hands of the 7-20 Boston College Golden Eagles.
So congrats to Wichita State on its No. 2 ranking and its 30-0 start. I’m not going to question it. I’m not going to criticize it. I honestly don’t care how they’ve gotten there because, as Gonzaga demonstrated last year, it truly does not matter. That is, unless the Shockers ride this hot streak through March Madness and to a win on Apr. 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.