College basketball saw 16 of the AP’s top 25 lose last week, but last year’s surprise Final Four entrant, Wichita State, was not among that group of teams.
The No. 4 Shockers, at 23-0 (10-o Missouri Valley Conference), are one of two undefeated teams left in college basketball — along with No. 1 Syracuse — but Wichita State doesn’t face nearly the level of competition that the Orange will face in the ACC while the Shockers play in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Valley lost Creighton to the Big East and isn’t as talented from top-to-bottom as last season, but winning on the road in that league on a consistent basis is one of the toughest things to do in the country. The Shockers should be tested heavily this week when they play two of their top competitors in the Valley this season as they travel to Indiana State on Wednesday and then follow that up with a game at Northern Iowa on Saturday.
“It’s the week that everyone’s been talking about and pointing at, arguably two of the best teams in our league, back to back, on the road,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said to the Associated Press. “I know they’ll be great atmospheres coming up and we’ll have to play really good basketball.”
Wichita State has already taken care of both Indiana State and Northern Iowa at home earlier this season — winning 68-48 against the Sycamores and 67-53 over the Panthers — but after falling behind by 15 points against Evansville over the weekend, there is some concern for the Shockers.
Wichita State can’t fall behind like that against Indiana State and Northern Iowa, two teams that will already know what to expect from this season’s Shockers while also being very strong teams at home.
Indiana State (17-5, 8-2) is undefeated at home this season while Northern Iowa (11-11, 5-5) is 8-1 at home despite its .500 record overall and in Valley play. Both environments will be very difficult for the Shockers because they’re a top-5 team coming off of a Final Four appearance and this will easily be the biggest home games of the year for both teams. The home fans will be fired up and both Indiana State and Northern Iowa will be as well.
Wichita State is used to getting everyone’s best shot by now, but Indiana State and Northern Iowa will be even tougher than the other road tests the Shockers have faced.
If Wichita State can get through this week unscathed, they wouldn’t face another tough test like this until Arch Madness in early March, but that’s much easier said than done.