Wichita St, past analogs, and seed probabilities, Part I
By the end of Thanksgiving Weekend, there were a few teams that I could tell meant business. Not the teams that squeezed out a surprising out of conference win; that happens all the time in November and December. Rather, a few teams in "non-power leagues" (whatever that means) make clear that they will be a force from November through March. No one made a better example of this than the Shockers on December 1st when they won at St. Louis. The Billikens are really, really good this year. They're 16-2 as of January 18th and cohesively haven't lost a beat from the team that beat seven top 50 teams last year. So when Ron Baker shot 70 percent, Tekele Cotton grabbed 10 rebounds, and all five starters scored in double figures on the road against one of the best defensive teams in the nation, it was clear that this years iteration of Shocker basketball would do more than just squeeze out an at-large bid.
In a way, 2013-2014 Wichita State is just continuing their run from last year. For most of last season they were not healthy, which is why they lost twice to Evansville and once to Southern Illinois in early 2013. Since March 9th, 2013, however, this team is 24-2 with wins against Pitt, Gonzaga, Ohio State, St. Louis, Tennessee, and BYU (none of which came on their home floor). It should be no surprise then that they're 18-0. Unfortunately for the Shockers, the selection committee doesn't care what you did last season. So now we have to ask two important questions. A) Will the Shockers go undefeated? B) What kind of seed should they expect on Selection Sunday?
- Will the Shockers go undefeated?
Indiana St (61)
@Illinois St (114)
@Indiana St (61)
@Northern Iowa (82)
Southern Illinois (285)
Missouri St (69)
MVC Tourney Quarters (RPI 200+)
MVC Semis (RPI 100+)
MVC Finals (RPI 50-100)
Of their next seven games, three are against RPI top 100 teams and only two are against teams with losing records. Of the five games against teams with winning records, all but one are on the road. Indiana State has already beaten Notre Dame and Belmont and has an outside shot at an at-large bid, while Northern Iowa has already beaten VCU and took Iowa State to overtime. As we saw last week at Missouri State, the Valley sans Creighton is still a very competitive league, and the Shockers are not going to be immune to a loss in league play. However, their final nine games (including the MVC tournament) would feature no true road games against teams ranked in the RPI top 200. The path after early February is a much easier one if the Shockers can stay undefeated through that point.
If I had to throw out a prediction as of today, I think Wichita State ends up 32-1 with one loss at either Indiana State, Illinois State, or Northern Iowa or in the MVC tournament finals. In a way, that could be beneficial for Gregg Marshall's squad going into the tournament. One loss to a top 100 team does little to hurt your profile, and then the pressure of finishing the year undefeated is gone.
On Sunday I'll recap the critical Wichita State/Indiana State game and take a look at where similar teams ended up seeded in March, so be sure to catch the blog tomorrow!