The move to the American Athletic Conference for Wichita State could be finalized soon.
The AAC will vote on adding the Shockers this week, with the “general expectation” being that the vote arries to bring them into the fold, Sports Illustrated reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources.
This move has appeared to be an inevitability in recent weeks as all the momentum has seemingly been there for the Shockers to leave its current home of the Missouri Valley Conference for the higher-profile AAC.
The move could mean more money for the Wichita State athletic department, but undoubtedly the real draw has to be the prospect of playing a consistent multi-bid conference. The Shockers were thought to have to win the MVC tournament last month to secure a bid, despite having a 30-4 record and being ranked in the top-10 of KenPom. Illinois State, which the Shockers beat in the MVC final, missed out on the NCAA tournament after going 27-6.
Wichita State’s decision certainly does have pros and cons, as the Shockers have shown they can absolutely dominate the MVC almost year-in and year-out. They’ve shown they can recruit at a level commensurate with a national brand there and win big. Moving to the AAC doesn’t preclude them from continuing that, but given the shifting level of competition of geographics, it may not be a given, either.
Still, the allure of having some margin for error in a single-elimination conference tournament has to be powerful for the Shockers and coach Gregg Marshall, whose contentedness Wichita State has to consider given the heights he’s taken the program and the high-profile programs that have and will continue to court his services. Not only does it alleviate the pressure of having to win a conference tournament, it affords Wichita State to earn a higher seed in the NCAA tournament with an improved conference schedule.
Should the Shockers indeed leave the Valley, it does significant damage to the Valley. Losing Wichita State, which is the nation’s best bet to develop into the “next Gonzaga” is bad enough, but when it’s coupled with Creighton’s prior departure to the Big East, it’s a massive blow. Losing two of your most prominent programs and brands inside five years totally remakes the landscape of a conference.
When Creighton left, the Valley replaced them with Loyola Chicago. If the league can’t woe a team of significantly higher stature than that this time around, the conference’s reputation will sustain yet an even bigger downgrade.
Wichita State is expected to play in the AAC this season.