Wichita State - Missouri State

Undefeated regular season says all we need to know about No. 2 Wichita State

9 Comments

31-0.

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.

They haven’t.

My point?

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.

31-0.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Leave a comment

The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Leave a comment

With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.