Every critic, every naysayer who has blasted Wichita State‘s schedule is eating their words after Saturday afternoon’s 68-45 victory by Wichita State over Missouri State to close the regular season. The Shockers finish the most productive regular season in Division-I college basketball history at 31-0, with the top seed in the upcoming Missouri Valley Conference tournament in the bag.
But Wichita State’s goals now need to be much more far reaching than a perfect regular season. Of course, to most people, the next thought would be that the Shockers will be aiming for the national championship. Wichita State can certainly go that far. The Shockers are good enough and can play with anyone in the country.
There are no other dominant teams, and the only other team that looks like a possible threat is the Florida Gators. Both Wichita State and Florida figure to be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, so they wouldn’t meet until at least the national semifinals.
However, for the Shockers (31-0, 18-0 MVC), who were led Saturday by Cleanthony Early‘s 19 points, there is one more piece of business to take care of prior to the NCAA tournament. It wouldn’t seem to many that the MVC tournament (commonly known as “Arch Madness”) would be a major bump in the road for the Shockers, who have dominated most of their conference competition this season. However, a fact that might surprise most college basketball fans is that Wichita State hasn’t won the MVC Tournament since 1987, and that triumph marks the only time the Shockers have cut down the nets in the conference tournament.
In fact, it’s been so long since Wichita State has won the MVC tournament, it wasn’t even Arch Madness back then as the 1987 tournament was held at the Tulsa Convention Center.
In any other year, when the Shockers were 29-2 for example, they wouldn’t need to win the conference tournament. They’d be assured an NCAA tournament bid, and would almost be more concerned about keeping everyone healthy than they would be about winning three games in three days. But at 31-0, everything is different. There is no turning back for Wichita State now.
Not only must the Shockers win the MVC tournament to stay unbeaten, but they need to finally capture the tournament that has eluded them for 27 years.
The MVC tournament isn’t the biggest prize remaining for Wichita State, but it is important. If the Shockers can’t win it this year, when will they? And if the Shockers can’t win a tournament filled with teams they have mostly crushed this season, how will they be expected to succeed in the NCAA tournament?