For What it’s Worth---Shocks, ‘Hawks and ‘Cats on gameday
With the Shockers still unbeaten and ranked in the nation’s top five, there’s a growing conversation about the relative strength of their schedule. But, if the generally accepted view is that this team is better than last year’s and last year’s was good enough to reach the Final Four…what difference does the strength of their schedule really make?
Where the schedule is really going to hurt is over the two months of Valley play. The Shockers need to continue to play at a high level, but how high can that level be in the Valley? Creighton, with its top 20 RPI is gone and so are the two or three times a year the Shockers faced them. That’s two or three big games they knew they’d have to play well in to win, the mindset for those games is different than those against programs they simply out man. The Shockers need to be pushed, but they need to be pushed playing well and I’m not sure that opportunity exists with the remaining schedule. So, how prepared will they be for a decided uptick in the competition in March?
The Sycamores won in Koch Arena last year as the Shockers endured one of their worst shooting nights in the Gregg Marshall era, beyond that Indiana State is a veteran team, when you take that collectively you get a team you better account for. ISU is an interesting study statistically, at 40 percent they’re one of the top three point shooting teams in the country, in fact, they’re one of the better shooting teams in the county period---but they allow opponents to shoot a high percentage as well, which means that they’re not all in defensively.
The Sycamores have five players averaging in double figures and are the Valley’s best free throw shooters. When it comes to rebounding, however, they’re simply average—do you sense a theme here? Good shooters and scorers, not as good of rebounders or defenders which is where the Shockers, generally, make their living. Throw in home court advantage and that’s why the Shockers are 10 ½ point favorite.
How ironic that both WSU and KU are facing teams on the same day that beat them at home a year ago. Oklahoma State is trying to become one of the few teams to say that they’ve won in Lawrence in back to back trips, but, without the injured Michael Cobbins in the middle, the matchup against the Jayhawks is problematic. A win against the Cowboys would give the ‘Hawks a clean sweep against all the early contenders (sorry Baylor—get back to me when you can win a road game) and would set them up well in their quest for a tenth straight conference title, which, to me, is the most impressive current streak of any king in college basketball.
Meanwhile in Manhattan---
I’ll be stunned if K-State doesn’t take care of business against West Virginia, which is a decent team at home but none too solid on the road. You wonder if there’s not real buyer’s remorse over joining the Big 12 in Morgantown. West Virginia has a championship in women’s soccer, but have come up woefully short in football and men’s hoops, add in concerns about travels into the central time zone and you have a decision that’s easy to second guess.
Where’s Waldo---err, Bruce---
I’ll be at the Wichita State game with Indiana State, watch for my reports on Eyewitness News or Sports(depending on where they choose to use them). Have a great weekend.