Wichita State went to the Final Four last season, and is currently 34-0 entering the NCAA tournament. This year, the Shockers have been continually criticized for its schedule.
The Missouri Valley Conference was down this season, added to that lack of competition was Creighton joining the new Big East. Out of conference, the Shockers defeated BYU, Tulsa, Tennessee, North Carolina Central and Saint Louis — all tournament teams.
Gregg Marshall is willing to schedule high-major programs, though some power conference teams have been reluctant to do so. That will change in 2014-2015. According to a report from Gary Parrish of CBS Sports, Wichita State has reached an agreement with Memphis to play a neutral site game in South Dakota.
The Shockers and Tigers will play on Nov. 18 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. According to Parrish, it will be a late afternoon tip, part of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon.
“We’ve been crucified for our schedule … even though we played five non-conference games against teams that are in the NCAA tournament, which is more than anybody else in our region,” Marshall told Parrish. “The problem with our schedule was our conference schedule, and we can’t do anything about that. But we have set out to schedule even better.”
Wichita State can silence doubters with a deep tournament run, or even better: a return trip to the Final Four. The Shockers are the top seed in the Midwest, easily the most difficult region. In the Round of 32, Wichita State could get Kentucky or in-state opponent Kansas State, followed by potential matchups with Louisville in the Sweet 16 and Duke or Michigan in the Elite 8.
“And we have to win that game; I know that,” Marshall told CBS Sports. “If we lose that game, the detractors will win. So we have to win. And I’m excited about it.”
Wichita State plays the winner of the second No. 16 seed play-in game between Cal Poly and Texas Southern. The Shockers’ Round of 64 game tips at 7:10 p.m. on Friday.