We have officially reached the point in the year where No. 4 Wichita State running the table with an undefeated regular season now seems like a probability, not just a possibility.
The Shockers survived their toughest road test in conference play, going into Terre Haute and knocking off Indiana State, 65-58. The Sycamores got 15 of Cleanthony Early’s 19 points in the second half and Ron Baker shut down Manny Arop, holding him to three second half points after he went for 13 in the first 20 minutes.
The hero ended up being big man Chadrack Lufile, as he hit four free throws in the final 43 seconds to ice a game that the Shockers seemed intent on keeping interesting.
The Shockers play four of their last seven regular season games on the road, with the toughest test being a visit to Northern Iowa on Saturday. Get past Saturday unscathed, however, and the Shockers only have one game remaining against a team in the top four in the league with all of their road games coming against teams in the bottom four in the conference.
At this point, the biggest question isn’t whether or not Wichita State is good enough to go undefeated.
This team is better than the team that made the Final Four last season, and they’re playing in a Missouri Valley that would be considered down even if Creighton was still a member of the conference.
The issue is going to be whether or not they can handle the pressure. Every game they play is going to be the single biggest game of the year for their opponent. A win can define a team’s season, maybe even a player’s career. Each time they take the court, they are going to be the biggest story of the day in college hoops.
This team went to the Final Four last season. They should know what pressure feels like. They should be familiar with the crush that comes with the attention of the national media. They should be prepared to make this run.
Now all they have to do is win the games.