There is going to come a point in time where we, as college basketball fans and members of the college basketball media, need to sit down and have a real discussion about whether or not Wichita State is the best team in college basketball.
On Friday night, in a season-opening win over UMKC, the No. 6 Shockers barely broke a sweat. They were up 15 points before you could blink. The lead was 30 by the last TV timeout of the first half and, come the break, the Shockers were up by 39 points.
But UMKC isn’t much to write home about.
We’re not looking at them as a potential league champ and NCAA tournament team.
That is, however, how we’re looking at the College of Charleston, who Wichita State eviscerated on Monday evening in the Koch Center. The Cougars managed all of 11 points in the first 13 minutes on Monday, they found themselves down by 25 points at halftime and, with about 18 minutes left in the game, Gregg Marshall mercifully called off the dogs with his team up 56-24.
Charleston was a top 100 team on KenPom a season ago. They finished second to a very good UNC Wilmington in the CAA, losing to those same Seahawks in the CAA tournament title game. They return everyone of consequence from that group, including Joe Chealey, and are widely considered to be one of the best mid-major teams in the country this season. Not only are they good and experienced, but they’re coached by a rising star in this business – Earl Grant – who just so happens to be a Marshall disciple; he spent six seasons on Marshall’s staff, three at Winthrop and three at Wichita State.
And he was totally, utterly embarrassed by his former boss.
This is a Wichita State team that is still playing without Markis McDuffie, the second-best player on the roster, and has yet to really get Landry Shamet going, the best player on their roster. Through two games, their front line of Shaq Morris, Darral Willis Jr. and Rauno Nurger has looked absolutely unbeatable, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that the Shockers may just be the toughest defensive team in the country.
There is no question that this team is one of the nation’s best, a Final Four contender and probably the favorite to win the AAC title.
And while this may alienate the Shocker fan base, I still think that we need to wait and see on Wichita State, at the very least until they actually beat another team that is close to their level. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, which is basically the post-Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet Shockers, these are their five best wins: Dayton on a neutral, Illinois State on a neutral, Illinois State at home, Oklahoma on a semi-neutral and … Tulsa? LSU? Colorado State on the road?
We know that Wichita State is “for real”. I don’t even think Gregg Marshall’s worst enemy would be able to say anything else.
But before we can definitively say that this team is better than, say, Duke or Michigan State, Arizona or Kansas, even Villanova or Cincinnati, they need to collect the wins to back that up. That should happen next week, when the Shockers travel to Hawai’i for the Maui Invitational.
Win that tournament and we can reassess.
And until then, we can still talk about the one thing that anyone who watched Wichita State play this season is thinking: That the Shockers could very well be college basketball’s best.