By Ed Morgans @writered21 on June 16, 2014
After Wichita State cruised through the regular season and MVC Tournament unbeaten, they were the talk of the country and the toast of the town. A tough loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament may have ended the Shockers' season, but it didn't tarnish their great year. Now, with players like guard Fred VanVleet returning, Wichita State has a few challenges on the way to another big year in 2014-15.
Just 14-19 and 6-12 in the MVC, Evansville might not seem like a big challenge for Wichita State. And the Shockers were 3-0 against the Purple Aces a season ago. But in one of those games, Evansville had a 15-point first-half lead before the Shockers rallied. In addition, Evansville's roster was almost entirely freshmen and sophomores. A more experienced UE squad will be good enough to test the Shockers in two matchups next season.
Another team that should be considered up and coming in the MVC is Southern Illinois. The Salukis quietly won seven of its final 10 regular-season games last year to end up 9-9 in the conference. Only a three-point loss to Indiana State kept Southern Illinois out of the MVC Tournament title game vs. Wichita State. Now the Shockers will have to deal with a confident, improved Salukis team next season in two matchups.
Despite last season's success, Wichita State has struck out so far in being invited to any of the really high-profile tournaments, invitationals, or one-night showcases that dot the non-conference landscape in college basketball. But the Shockers are headed to Hawaii Christmas week for the Diamond Head Classic, where potential matchups with Nebraska & Colorado await. Nebraska made the NCAA Tournament last season and Colorado has been on the rise.
Wichita State's dreams of even an unbeaten regular season and conference slate seemed to be done and dusted when the Shockers fell behind by 19 points at Missouri State. But Wichita State rallied, won the game, and the rest was history. The Bears were the most legitimate threat the Shockers faced in the conference last season and that makes their two matchups this season must-see TV.
Indiana State was another Valley team that played Wichita State tough last season, but given three chances to beat the Shockers, including in the MVC Tournament final, Indiana State came up short all three times. Still, Indiana State finished 23-11, 12-6 MVC, good enough for second. But ISU missed the tournament and just one win over the Shockers probably would have kept Indiana State out of the NIT. The Sycamores will want revenge in 2014-15.
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