Since James Naismith hammered up peach baskets at the Springfield, MA YMCA over 100 years ago only 21 college basketball teams have ever started a season 27 and oh. Wichita State is the twenty-first.
Close, close, close---
There aren’t many better closers in college basketball than Wichita State. Closing out a team doesn’t always have to happen in the last two minutes, but that’s when it’s most noticeable. Wichita State allowed Evansville to close within five points on Sunday, before simply stepping on the gas, leaving the Aces choking in their exhaust, just as they’ve done to others so many times this season. The 19-8 run made the final score look worse than the game was, but also underscored the difference in the two clubs.
Evansville actually outshot the Shockers, they out rebounded them too, but where the aces were trumped was with 14 WSU steals off 18 UE turnovers. The Shockers outscored their hosts by 21 in points off turnovers.
Ron Baker looked much stronger yesterday; I guess that happens when you’re hitting shots. His career high 26 points were supplemented by 18 from Fred Van Vleet who also assisted eight times. Both players had five steals in one of their best tag team efforts in a season full of them.
What’s impressive about Wichita State isn’t necessarily the consistency they’re playing with, I’m sure Gregg Marshall would love to see a little more---instead it’s the consistency that they’re delivering with. The Shockers are 14-0 in the Valley and they’ve won those 14 games by an average of 15 points and they do it without prejudice—by an average of 15 points at home and 15 points on the road, more or less.
The Shockers need a win at Loyola on Wednesday to clinch no worse than a share of their second MVC title in three years. With Arizona’s loss at Arizona State, WSU will more than likely be third in the AP poll when released today. If you like the sound of a number one seed then you like KU, Villanova and San Diego State all losing last week. In fact, there’s irony in Creighton’s pounding of Villanova yesterday in Omaha, a result that may have eliminated the last real threat to a top seed, were the Shockers to remain unbeaten. I’m sure the Jays were happy to accommodate their old….friends.
Speaking of Creighton, one can’t help but wonder how this season would have looked with them in the Valley. It’s interesting that they’re leading the Big East with, essentially, the same cast of characters, minus big man Gregory Etchinique that they played with a year ago. Going to Loyola of Chicago on Wednesday hardly seems like a fair trade.
KU laps TCU---
A lot of the offense ran through Perry Ellis last weekend against TCU and he responded with a career high 32 points for the Jayhawks. Bill Self forecast this day, saying much of last year that Perry didn’t have the faintest idea how good he could be. Well, he does now and he’s going to end up first team all-Big 12 as a sophomore.
TCU is awful, the Frogs have a strong chance to go 0-18 in Big 12 play, but that’s not to take away from KU’s bounce back from K-State, especially when they shoot 61 percent from the floor. It was the 209th consecutive sellout of 16,300 in Allen Fieldhouse, how cool must it have been for Perry Ellis to hear all of them chanting his name late in the game?
K-State has to be kicking itself after losing ten point leads in both halves last weekend at Baylor. The ‘Cats are just 1-5 on the Big 12 road, in fact; they’re just 1-5 on the road this season period. Bruce Weber’s team did play 5 games on neutral courts before the start of conference play but everything else was at home. TCU comes in on Wednesday to offer whatever kind of resistance they can; the next big test comes at OU next Saturday. You would expect KSU to finish anywhere from third to sixth in the Big 12, the Sooners are in a similar situation.
I watched about 0:30 seconds of this game—enough to see two totally uncontested baskets scored by players wearing short sleeves. None of it looked interesting enough to watch any further.