DES MOINES, Iowa – What I don’t understand about the Wichita State naysayers is their forgetfulness.
It was just last April, after all, that the Shockers played in the Final Four. I was in Atlanta. I saw it. I even remember it, sort of.
Wichita State won four games in the NCAA tournament, then had Louisville on the ropes in the national semifinals before letting a 12-point second-half lead slip away.
But now it has become a national parlor game to question the Shockers from every direction. Their 21-0 record – Wichita State gained No. 21 with a 78-61 win over host Drake on Saturday night – is being assaulted by those who believe Wichita State is a fraud, hardly worthy of walking in unbeaten unison with Arizona and Syracuse.
Hey, it’s not the Shockers’ fault they’re 21-0. You would think they’ve done something wrong, that they should be sent to stick their noses in a corner until they learn to behave.
Wichita State is at least a good college basketball team and perhaps even a great one. Have the Shockers played the toughest schedule in the country this season? No, far from it.
Is the Missouri Valley Conference providing the proper tests as Wichita State moves forward? It’s a fair question, but all the Shockers can do is play the teams that show up in the other uniforms.
That’s what Drake did Saturday. If only the Bulldogs had been as confident as the several hundred in their student section, who started chanting “Overrated” before the opening tip.
“I never heard that before a game,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said.
But there was nothing Drake or its students could actually do about the steamrolling Shockers, who continue to confound some around the country who just don’t know what to make of them.
The Shockers look like a good bet to vault to No. 3 in the rankings this week, ahead of Michigan State and Villanova.
You’d think that what Wichita State did last season would resonate, as many key players from that team (Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Tekele Cotton) are on this team.
And to be fair, Wichita State is getting a lot of national adulation. But the skeptics often drown out the believers.
“I just go with the flow, day by day, interview by interview,” Marshall said. “I try to answer questions as candidly and honestly as I can. This is a very good basketball team. We don’t have to apologize to anybody about our schedule. We put it out there that we’ll play the best teams in the country. We will take all comers, but it takes two to tango. You can only play the teams that will play you.”