The Wichita State Shockers made history on Sunday. They became the first school since the 1991 UNLV Running Rebels to finish the season undefeated, and enter the NCAA tournament with a perfect record.
The Shockers won the Missouri Valley Championship game Sunday afternoon 83-69 over the Indiana State Sycamores (23-10, 12-6), to bump their record up to 34-0. Coincidentally, the only other Missouri Valley team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated was Indiana State, led by Larry Bird, in 1979. That team eventually lost in the National Championship game to Ervin “Magic” Johnson and Michigan State.
Sunday’s game against the Sycamores wasn’t a cake walk. While the Shockers led throughout, the Sycamores didn’t just roll over so Wichita State could go undefeated. They scrapped and fought the whole game, keeping the Shockers within striking distance. In one stretch of the second half, Indiana State hit 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions, drawing within 5 points.
Then the best player on the best team in the conference took over. Fred Van Vleet scored 20 of his game high 22 points in the second half to help the Shockers lock don the game. Van Vleet, the Missouri Valley Player of the Year, also had 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and just 1 turnover.
Not only did the Shockers go 34-0 on the season, but they did so convincingly. They outscored their opponents by an average of over 15 points a game, and they won by less than 11 points just 6 times all season. In fact, they lost by less than 5 points just once – by 3 in overtime on the road against Missouri State.
They won their 34 games decisively.
Watching them play the last several games, one remarkable thing stands out about the Wichita State Shockers – they didn’t really seem to feel the pressure of making history.
They played loose and relaxed. They remained focused on the opponent in front of them. They never seem to be caught up in all of the hype surrounding them.
People will argue whether or not their schedule warrants a number one seed. In this day and age of parity, it is an impressive feat to win 34 games in a row against anyone. The law of averages dictate you lose on some random off night. The Shockers didn’t.
They won 34 games in a row, and they won most of them decisively. They deserve a number one seed, and the there shouldn’t even be anymore discussion. Write them in on that line in permanent marker.
This team is no fluke. If any other team in America went to the Final Four one season, then came back undefeated the next, that team would be the number one team in the nation. Wichita State was in the Final Four last year, and came very close to defeating the eventual National Champions, the Louisville Cardinals.
Don’t count on the Wichita State Shockers go down in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This team is too good, too poised, and has too good of chemistry to just fall on its face. Look for another deep run for the Shockers.