Monday, February 24, 2014


Column: WSU deserves top spot in poll


In the chummy world of college basketball, everybody knows who sits at the cool kids’ table. The rest need to sit down, shut up and be grateful for the seat at the corner table of the cafeteria, where the mice battle for crumbs spilled by the unwashed.

Wichita State is not welcome at the cool kids’ table and will not be ranked No. 1 when today’s Associated Press college basketball poll is released.

Florida will move into the No. 1 spot with the number in parentheses representing first-place votes being somewhere in the neighborhood of 50. I’ll be one of the dozen or so voting Wichita State first, for no other reason than the Shockers have earned the right to sit atop the poll by going 29-0.

Those desperate to score points with the cool kids — maybe even so many points they’ll get a wave or at least a nod when strolling past their table at a respectful distance — will laugh at such a selection.

That’s fine. Many laughed at the Shockers having the audacity to consider themselves equals to Louisville, Syracuse and Michigan at last year’s Final Four in the Georgia Dome.

Never mind that the Shockers knocked off No. 1 seed Gonzaga and No. 2 seed Ohio State en route to Atlanta. They didn’t belong and still don’t. Just ask the cool kids.

Let’s conveniently forget that nobody played national-champion Louisville tougher in the NCAA Tournament than the Shockers, who couldn’t hold onto a 12-point lead with 13-plus minutes remaining. The Cardinals won their final 16 games and only one team during that winning streak, Wichita State, came within four points of them. The Shockers returned all but 17 points from that 72-68 loss. All but six of Wichita State’s 29 victories have been by double figures.

Despite all that, one of the more fashionable questions asked by analysts — who somehow keep straight faces when asking it — is whether the Shockers would get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament should they run the table, winning their final two regular-season games, plus the Missouri Valley Conference.

Anybody who thinks that the games matter more than the schedules made by athletic administrators over phones across America several months ago must answer that question in the affirmative.

The Missouri Valley was particularly strong a year ago, when the Shockers lost six regular-season games and another in the postseason tournament. Two of those seven losses were dealt by Creighton, now a member of the Big East.

The conference is down this season, but not so down that going 16-0 so far, with 13 of the victories by double digits, doesn’t count as a testament to consistently playing good basketball, no easy accomplishment.

Mock Wichita State’s schedule, but realize that doing so is just shining light on the blue bloods avoiding playing the Shockers based on the everything-to-lose, nothing-to-gain philosophy.

Wichita State won at St. Louis, now a top-15 team. Nobody but the Shockers have won at Indiana State. They can only beat those courageous enough to play them.

It’s not necessarily the team with the best basketball players that deserves to be ranked No. 1, rather the one that plays the best basketball. So far, that has been Wichita State, if only by a hair compared to Florida.

Part of the equation to winning involves not beating yourself. The Shockers average 10.4 turnovers per game. Sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet’s 3.77 assists-to-turnover ratio ranks fifth in the nation. They don’t beat themselves by missing free throws. The three leading scorers — Cleanthony Early (15.8), Ron Baker (13.0) and VanVleet (12.3) — shoot .848, .848 and .835 from the free-throw line. Somebody help me out. Remind me again how it’s easier to shoot free throws against a weak schedule?


Len Shaffer 8 years, 7 months ago

You make a lot of good points, Tom, but one argument I would make about the free throws is that it's a lot easier to make free throws when you're not exhausted (mentally and physically) from playing against a tough opponent, and when you don't have the stress of a game going down to the wire.

Robert Brown 8 years, 7 months ago

I think the WSU season is a great story. I'm sense that the comment in the article about blue bloods not wanted to play them is a subtle reference to KU and I am OK with that. The argument for not playing WSU doesn't make any sense. There are 3-4 games each season that could easily be substituted with WSU none of which would generate as much excitement and buzz as playing WSU.

There seems to be several negative posts about Greg Marshall. Every time I hear him speak, I find him impressive and engaging. College basketball is great because of stories like Wichita State.

Brad Farha 8 years, 7 months ago

It's all about recruiting. I personally am in favor of WSU and KU playing, but there is merit to the argument that it doesn't help out of state recruiting.

Eric J. Baker 8 years, 7 months ago

It's partially in reference to KU, but realistically it's a lot of other teams as well. Gregg Marshall tried to schedule a lot of high major teams and got turned down by most of them for the same reason KU cites.

Sam Constance 8 years, 7 months ago

The way I understand it, a big part of the reason they get turned down is because WSU refuses to schedule "high major" opponents the way most mid-major teams do: as a single game one-off.

I think that at least in KU's case, they don't want any part of a single game. They want a home-and-home or a home-and-neutral-and-home or some other package deal.

Vernon Riggs 8 years, 7 months ago

I am not bashing Wichita State or Gregg Marshall but the reality is that our scout team would have gone undefeated with WSU's schedule. Playing the 103rd toughest schedule doesn't lead to a lot of praise. When you look at the top 8 RPI spots:

  1. Kansas...SOS #1
  2. Arizona...SOS #8
  3. Florida...SOS #23
  4. 'Nova....SOS #17
  5. Wisconsin...SOS #2
  6. Duke...SOS #5
  7. Creighton,,,SOS #21
  8. Wichita State...SOS #103

Wichita State's 103rd toughest schedule stands out. WSU is a decent team but do they deserve to take a #1 Seeding from Kansas, Arizona, Florida or Duke/'Cuse? Simple answer is NO.

David A. Smith 8 years, 7 months ago

I would have to agree. Is there any proof that the "blue bloods" refuse to play WSU? I have my doubts about that. Gregg Marshall has tried to call out Self for not agreeing to play WSU, yet Self has publicly responded by saying that WSU has never contacted him.

Nick Gemas 8 years, 7 months ago

Self is on record at stating his Jayhawks will never play the Shockers. Quoting from this link: "If it was best for our program, I would reach out to them...but it’s not."

Eric J. Baker 8 years, 7 months ago

Returning champions Louisville has a similarly ranked strength of schedule, and they've lost 4 games. Beating most teams in a relatively weak schedule and beating EVERY team in a relatively weak schedule are on entirely different levels. It means you're never allowed an off game, you're never allowed a mental lapse. You have to get pumped up for every single game. And every single team is throwing everything they've got at you.

Your comments just show you haven't watched WSU play. You really should, because they're really, really good. Basically this same team beat the #1 and #2 seeds in the tournament last year and led the eventual champions by double digits in the second half.

Sam Constance 8 years, 7 months ago

"And every single team is throwing everything they've got at you"

Yet the problem remains that Loyola-Chicago, Drake, Bradley, Southern Illinois, Davidson, Evansville and many others simply don't "got" very much to throw.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 7 months ago

You're not bashing Wichita State by saying KU's scout team would have gone undefeated? That looks like a complete insult to me. That's like me saying, I'm not racist but... This type of thinking is just naive and absurd.

You don't have to think Wichita State is good, but the fact and reality is that Wichita State is really really good. Any team who goes to the Final 4 (That's more than Kansas can say over the last year), almost defeats the National Champion, returns almost 80 percent of their lineup the following season and remains the only undefeated Division I School in the country deserves some recognition. Not some back handed comment from a Kansas fan.

It's amazing to me Kansas fans aren't more knowledgeable than this. Sure, you can point to the SOS, but what is that really? Of all the fan bases out there hasn't the Missouri Valley and the Mid-Majors across the country proved to Kansas that they can play ball? I mean, do I have to run down the list over the last 10 years against Mid-Majors that Kansas has struggled against and also lost to?

Nevada twice

Oral Roberts

St. Josephs


Davidson (Win and a loss)





Southern Illinois (Struggled in a Sweet 16 win)

Wake up and smell the coffee. In this day and age of college basketball and the one and done era...the depth of good players across the country are at an all-time high. Couple that with an experienced upper class Wichita State team and an All American Point Guard...Wichita State would be ready to play against Kansas.

Take them lightly? Kansas will add another Mid-Major to the list above. You can point directly to SOS all you want but Wichita State ranks 8th in the country in KenPom. Kansas is one spot in front at #7. You can undermine Wichita State all you want, but give them their due and respect at least. They've earned it and deserve it up to this point. Show a little class.

Vernon Riggs 8 years, 7 months ago

I am up and smelling the coffee. I want to play the Shockers in the NCAA Tournament. I would look forward to that game. But, I also agree from a business sense that there is no upside to scheduling them on the Kansas schedule. And make no doubt, college basketball is a business. A BIG business.

My point was I do not believe WSU deserves a Number One seed or are the Number One team in the NCAA. Again, my belief, the league champions from the Big12, Big10, ACC, PAC12 are more deserving than the champions of the BigWest, Sun Belt, MVC or other mid-majors. I do not think that WSU should have a Number One Seeding over Duke, 'Cuse, Florida, Kansas and/or Arizona.

Chris, if we disagree with each other, that doesn't mean one of doesn't have class. It means that we see life, or at least college basketball differently.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 7 months ago

Clearly you don't have a point when you try to compare Wichita State to Kansas' scout team. That's not two people disagreeing with each other. That's just being dumb. Now that's showing zero class.

Bryce Landon 8 years, 7 months ago

I believe the Shox are deserving of a #1 ranking, and I long for the day when KU revives the rivalry with them.

Steve Corder 8 years, 7 months ago

No offense, but what rivalry are you referring to?

Scott Bonnet 8 years, 7 months ago

WSU has been willing to play absolutely all comers home and home. For those that argue Koch Arena is too small, they also offer to play at InTrust Arena as a substitute. It is stupid to penalize a team because other teams are afraid to play them.

Scott Oswalt 8 years, 7 months ago

Afraid to play them? KU isn't afraid to play any team. That's why our SOS is #1 in the country. I would argue WSU is afraid to play a tough non-con schedule. You've beat St. Louis, BYU and Tennessee. Congratulations! See you in the Midwest region final!

Eric J. Baker 8 years, 7 months ago

Did you read Keegan's article? Marshall tries to schedule the best teams he can and gets turned down. So no, WSU is not afraid. The only teams afraid are the ones that end up on WSU's side of the bracket.

Scott Oswalt 8 years, 7 months ago

Marshall might need to try a little harder. I'd be happy to be in Wichita's bracket. That would be the easiest #1 seed to beat out of the four.

Joe Joseph 8 years, 7 months ago

But Wichita State has not expressed interest in scheduling teams that do not include the home-and-home condition.

If Wichita State wants to start getting credit for a real non-con schedule, then it's going to have to go on the road to do so.

Whether that's fair or unfair, that's how it typically works in college basketball

Sam Constance 8 years, 7 months ago

Since when do mid-major teams get to dictate home-and-home setups?

Name me one other team, besides MAYBE Gonzaga, that is considered a mid-major that is engaged in home-and-home arrangements with high-major teams. I'm not even sure Gonzaga does it that often.

Joe Joseph 8 years, 7 months ago

And Gonzaga had to establish itself as a perennial top-25 team before it started getting those home-and-homes.

Kevin Jenkins 8 years, 7 months ago

Nice read but, until the coach and AD sets up a schedule playing against worthy teams. They will never get the recognition. Play somebody that's ranked and the selection team will reward you. Yes they have been playing great ball and look like a well machined team. I hope they go far. I lived in Wichita for sometime and became a shockers fan. But I also am a KU fan. Just look at the difference in schedules. Look what Self scheduled for his team this year and how many top 20 teams have they played. Who has WSU played? Yes their wins and no losses sound great. I do believe they will get a n1# seed and lets hope they go far. Keegan should list show the teams that turned them down and as far.

Sam Constance 8 years, 7 months ago

Should WSU be ranked #1 today when the poll comes out? Sure, why not. The polls, for the most part, are a "move up if you win"/"move down if you lose" deal, and they are the last undefeated team. Leapfrogging Florida over them would be obnoxious but unsurprising, since many voters put so little critical thinking into their votes. I have no problem with giving WSU their due credit for traversing their schedule (however weak) without a loss.

But when it comes to the 1-seed line, there is a different standard than "atta boy--you guys haven't lost!". Those seeds are supposed to be reserved for the teams that have put together the most impressive overall resumes throughout the college season. And I think we are at the point where we can use a bit more nuance losses to evaluate what teams have compiled the most impressive seasons. Is Wichita State going 31-0 (if they were to do so) against their wasteland of a schedule one of the 4 most impressive resumes this season? I don't think so, and it seems that every other major regression analysis agrees:

WSU ratings: RPI - #9 BPI - #6 Pomeroy - #8 Sagarin - #17

The example I keep coming back to is this: if KU or Duke or Kentucky or UNC (or pick your team) were to finish a stretch of games where they had won their last however many in a row against North Carolina Central, Davidson, Southern Illinois (2x), Northern Iowa (2x), Illinois St. (2x), Missouri St. (2x), Bradley, Indiana St. (2x), Drake (2x), Loyola-Chicago (2x), and Evansville (2x), would any one give a crap? I highly doubt it.

This isn't just about WSU not getting respect. This is about people not respecting (and rightfully so) their opponents. No one cares about a team as talented/skilled as WSU beating up on a bunch of rummies. Maybe it isn't fair to WSU, but life isn't fair. While I can appreciate the accomplishment for what it is--going 29-0 isn't EASY--I refuse to give them a pass when it comes to seeding when other teams have done more over the course of the season.

Plus, everyone wants to point to the fact that they've won so many games by double-digits, but it's not like they are blowing these teams off the court. They should be given the disparity in talent between WSU and their opponents. In their last 19 games (only 2 of which have come against a team in the Pomeroy 100), their avg. margin of victory is a modest 13.8, and they've beaten more teams by single-digits than they have beaten teams by 20+. It may be sad that a team like WSU has to blow the doors off their opponents in order to garner respect, but the bottom line is that without any more than a few games that can be used as a barometer, we have to look to other ways to extrapolate their talent. They haven't played or beaten a likely tournament team in over two months. And by the time the NCAA tournament rolls around, it will have been over THREE months.

Why should they deserve a 1-seed?

Sam Brockert 8 years, 7 months ago

I'm sorry, but didn't he just write five paragraphs why they don't?

Nathan Scholl 8 years, 7 months ago

Wichita St deserves to be number one? I think not. Their strength of schedule is a joke. They will lose in the first couple of rounds of the tournament when they play a real team. Indiana St? Seriously? St Louis, ok, but that's it. Wichita St was a different team a year ago as well. Great coach, great kids, but number one? Nawww.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 7 months ago

Weren't they suppose to lose in the early rounds of the tournament last year? Didn't they play "Real Teams" last year and make a "Final 4"?

So..when Kansas lost to Bucknell, Bradley, UNI, and VCU in the tournament they actually lost to "Fake Teams", right?

Chris Shaw 8 years, 7 months ago

The comments on here are baffling. Give Wichita State their due. You all sound like a bunch of entitled uninformed posters. I am sure you all thought Southern Illinois in the 2007 Sweet 16 was going to be cake walk as well. Unbelievable!

Jerry Long 8 years, 7 months ago

Well, they are not ranked number 1, they are ranked number 2. Regardless of that debate, I find it very cool that 2 of the top 5 rated teams are from the state of Kansas. Take that you east and west coasters!

Tim Ballew 8 years, 7 months ago

Take out TCU and add WSU to the Big 12. Based on an 18 game Big 12 schedule, what record does WSU end up with? Do they win in Lawrence? Manhattan? Ames?

Yes 29-0 is impressive, but the grind of playing ranked teams every week and never getting an off night or a gimme game, outside of TCU. It's not an apples to apples comparison. Could they beat KU, in any given game, sure. Would they be undefeated, or even close if they played a Big 12 schedule? Not even close.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 7 months ago

How has Creighton done since moving? Last I looked they are in the Top 10 in both AP polls and in the Top 5 of the Kenpom rankings.

Tracey Graham 8 years, 7 months ago

What Wichita State is doing is very impressive. However, they have not played a strong schedule. In fact, they have not played ANY GAMES against ranked teams this season. Not one. Meanwhile Florida has played five games against Top 25 opponents (going 3-2). Throw in the fact that the SEC is a much stronger conference than the Missouri Valley Conference from top to bottom, and there is your reason as to why WSU is not ranked #1.

Assuming they end up running the table, they will still get a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. And if Florida loses, they will have a good shot at moving to #1 in the polls.

However, you cannot overlook their weak schedule. What they did last year has nothing to do with how they should be ranked this season.

Robert Brown 8 years, 7 months ago

Wichita State won at St. Louis which last I checked had only two losses and is a Top 10 team and would probably give KU fits with its defense.

Tracey Graham 8 years, 7 months ago

Saint Louis was not ranked at the time they lost to Wichita State. So it doesn't officially count as a win, or even a game played versus a Top 25 team.. The opponent has to be ranked at the time of the meeting in order for it to count.

Robert Brown 8 years, 7 months ago

That logic makes no sense and not how strength of schedule works. Just because a team is rank high in November doesn't mean they are that good. At one point Ohio State was Top 5, but they clearly are not that good and as they have descended, the SOS of teams that played them has also declined.

Robert Brown 8 years, 7 months ago

There is an entitled arrogance amongst some of our fans that is being put on display by some of the posters. Stories like WSU are what makes college basketball so great. It is very unlikely they will make it back to the Final Four-- ask us KU fans who many times our #1 seed got us to the Final 4.

Tracey Graham 8 years, 7 months ago

On a separate thought, has Wichita State reached out to the Big 12 or any of the other power conferences about becoming a member? I know they don't have a FBS football team, which is a negative for joining a power conference, but in addition to their basketball programs (the Lady Shockers are usually good, I believe), they have a strong baseball program. So I would think they would be a nice addition to the Big 12 or another power conference. It would be a risk, as moving up to a bigger conference can cause programs to struggle (see Butler's basketball team this year), but if Wichita State doesn't want to continue to possibly be underseeded or underranked when it has a great season, maybe the school should consider a move. But if they are happy remaining a mid-major powerhouse and perhaps not always getting all the respect they should, that's cool too.

Chris Shaw 8 years, 7 months ago

You could look at Butler, but they lost all their talent, lost their coach...they are basically starting from scratch. Creighton would have been a better example to use had Wichita State moved conferences this past season.

Wichita State doesn't have much wiggle room because they have zero football and a BCS (Thank God the BCS is dead) conference isn't going to invite a school without a football program.

That's why the Big East went the route they did. If the Big East ever expanded I could see schools like Gonzaga (They wanted to but proximity was the downfall) and Wichita State being on the list of possible invitees. I could also see Davidson possibly.

Vernon Riggs 8 years, 7 months ago

Chris, would WSU be undefeated if they had to play Creighton in a home/away series this season?

Chris Shaw 8 years, 7 months ago

They very well could or they very well wouldn't. We'll never know that answer but they still have the ability to to compete with anybody in the country as Creighton has shown this year by moving conferences.

With that said, saying Kansas' scout team would be undefeated doesn't give you much creditbility IMO.

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 7 months ago

These are the non-conference teams that are in the tournament at the moment and Wichita State has beaten them. BYU W75-62 SAINT LOUIS W70-65 TENNESSEE W70-61 NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL W77-66

This is the non-conference team that can still play its way in they beat. OREGON W71-58 Their RPI is 9, BPI is 6, ranked 2 and 29-0. They have beaten who they had to as far as quality opponents. Their conference is the real drawback and there's nothing that can change it.They are undefeated and if they remain so, give them the #1 seed.

Matt Brown 8 years, 7 months ago

I don't understand why the SOS thing is so hard to understand. A) No one is putting WSU down. It is a fact that WSUs schedule looks like the early, early tune-up section of most first- or second-tier basketball programs. WSU is awesome, but the teams the Shockers play, for the most part, suck compared to the teams KU plays. B) Who gives a rats arse if you're No. 1 during the regular season? All you have to be is in the Top 4 when the brackets come out. That, and winning your conference, are all that matters. After that, as WSU showed last year, everything is solved on the court. C) SOS matters. The week-in, week-out pounding the Jayhawks, or anyone with a Top 10 schedule, are taking, is real. It affects everything from shooting/freethrow % to who can actually suit up toward the end of the season. D) If WSU really wanted to play KU, the AD would agree to a one-off. You can rail and cry all day that it is not fair, but no one gave KU its standing as a blue blood. The school earned it over the long haul, wining a huge % of its games (again, against a contextually solid list of opponents). It's basic business. KU gets nothing from the match-up, so why do it? (see Missouri) E) Just enjoy being so freaking good. WSU is really, really good. Why do you need KU people to tell you that? Things keep going to he way they look to be going, the schools will meet in the NCAA anyway. Then you won't need to worry anymore.

Bryan Mohr 8 years, 7 months ago

It's in WSU's best interest to get jilted from the #1 ranking, and get a 2-seed so they can "play angry". Gregg Marshall knows it, and he's hoping NOT to be #1, and WANTS to get a 2-seed. If they're ranked #1 in the polls, a 1-seed, and zero losses, they'll have nothing to be angry about except losing in the 2nd round.

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