They did it.
With a 68-45 win over Missouri State, No. 2 Wichita State became the first team since St. Joseph’s in 2004 to finish the regular season undefeated.
I hope you all can appreciate that fact.
Because regardless of what happens, the argument about just how good this Wichita State team is will never end. That’s the problem with judging an entire season based on the outcome of a one-off, knock-out tournament. If the Shockers make the Final Four, that’s not proof that they were one of the four best teams in the country this season. If they get picked off in the Round of 32, that doesn’t mean that they were egregiously overrated and it shouldn’t mean that their 31-0 record has an asterisk.
Don’t believe me?
Well, do you think that Wichita State was one of the four best teams in the country last season, when they made the Final Four?
That’s the frustrating part of Wichita State’s somewhat unlucky schedule. We’ll never actually know what would happen if this group had to play an 18-game Big Ten slate or in the round-robin Big 12. Everything that looked like a positive on their schedule entering the season has underwhelmed.
Alabama and Tennessee both underperformed this season. The Shockers couldn’t get into the season-opening event in Dallas and they got stuck with BYU and DePaul at the CBE Classic instead of Texas. Creighton left the Missouri Valley prior to the season and the conference, as a whole, is as weak as it has been in a long time.
None of that is Wichita State’s fault.
All they could do was go out and win every night, and they did exactly that. And regardless of who the Shockers played, that’s not an easy thing to do. There’s a reason that this is only the second time that a 22-year old college senior will have seen a team finish the regular season with a zero in the loss column. If beating a handful of good and a bunch of mediocre teams was easy, one of the 350 Division I teams across the country would have done it at some point in the last decade.
Wichita State is good enough to make a Final Four, and if you can make a Final Four, you can win the two games needed to bring home a national title. The Shockers could also end up losing in the first weekend of the tournament, because nothing says March like a top two seed getting picked off before the Sweet 16. I don’t think anyone actually believes that Northern Iowa was better than Kansas in 2010, but that didn’t stop the Jayhawks from getting Farokhmaneshed.
Keep that in mind as we head into March. Don’t let one loss devalue what they accomplished. Appreciate the Shockers for what they are.