Wichita State marched through the regular season unscathed. At 34-0, they ran through a relatively easy non-conference schedule, featuring just one team currently in the top 25. Not only that, but the Shockers never played a team that was currently in the top 25 as of tip-off.
They then marched through their Missouri Valley Conference schedule with few scares, warranting them a No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Many doubters will say they are weak and can’t do it, but they believe they are capable of going all the way.
One thing was made clear though after the bracket was released to the public. Whether it was the bracket-makers intention or not, the Shockers are going to have to earn it if they intend to shock the world.
In a Midwest region where AP-ranked No. 5 Louisville is a four-seed and freshman phenom Jabari Parker’s Duke is also just a three-seed, anything can happen. I haven’t even mentioned Michigan yet. Then there is Saint Louis at the five-seed, who would have to upset Louisville to get to a rematch with the Shockers if all else went according to plan. There is no doubt however, that the Billikens would be feeling really hot if they get another crack at WSU.
Whoever gets through this region will have to feel pretty good, national champion or not. The Shockers may not have everyone they had during last year’s run to the Final Four, but they still have their best player, Cleanthony Early, and Fred VanVleet, who has made a huge jump from last year to become one of the team leaders as a sophomore.
Louisville still has the championship swagger they earned a year ago. Duke, while they have struggled, has the talent in Parker and sophomore Rodney Hood to make a serious run as well.
With all that said, the Shockers matchup well with the other powers in their region. Early is one of the best players in the country — even though his team’s play overshadows his own — and should be able to match up with all the talented wings thrown his way.
It seems as though the Shockers are being disrespected. More people are picking Louisville to emerge from the Midwest than Wichita State, per ESPN.com’s tournament challenge.
Not that Wichita State’s players are paying ESPN.com any attention, but they have to realize that people doubt them, and could play with that us-against-the-world mentality heading into the tournament. This usually bodes well for talented teams, as playing with a chip on your shoulder can bring out the best in athletes.
March Madness is bound to be a thrill ride again this year, and the Shockers could have people mad as well, win or lose.