The Wichita State Shockers won this year’s MVC tournament title game handily, beating fellow first-place finisher Illinois State, 71-51.
Gregg Marshall’s men ended the year on a 15-game winning streak, which included 10 games in which the Shockers crested 80 or more points. They scored 109 against Evansville on Feb. 21 and 100 against Bradley on Jan. 1.
But they received a No. 10 line on the Big Dance bracket, and that should not go unnoticed — because Wichita State is a damn good basketball team.
So why does the NCAA Tournament selection committee only consider the Shockers the No. 38 team in this year’s Big Dance? Why is the No. 8 overall team by Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency sitting behind a full 30 teams? More importantly, why does this seem to happen every year?
Simply put, RPI and strength of schedule. The Shockers rank No. 32 in the NCAA’s calculated RPI, an already flawed way of measuring a team’s potential tournament success, at least according to Pomeroy himself.
The Shockers were a great team by any objective analysis
- Wichita State was No. 12 in the country in offensive efficiency. That’s better than Kentucky, Arizona, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Louisville.
- Wichita State was No. 19 in defensive efficiency. That’s better than North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Oregon and Florida State.
There were only four teams in the country in the top 25 of both offensive and defensive efficiency. They were No. 1 seed Villanova, No. 1 seed Gonzaga, No. 2 seed Kentucky and ... No. 10 seed Wichita State.
The selection committee would have you think that this team should be an underdog. Instead, Wichita vs. Dayton, with the winner likely to play Kentucky, is a death trap scenario for everyone involved.
Does this feel familiar? Oh yes, it does.
Wichita State gets disrespected every year
In last year’s tournament, Wichita had to lumber through a play-in game in Dayton, where it beat the Vanderbilt Commodores, 70-50. The Shockers went on to blast No. 6 Arizona out of the mix, 65-55, before eventually falling to an ascendant No. 3 Miami Hurricanes.
Here in 2017, Wichita should on paper roll right over Dayton, after which it’ll most probably meet none other than No. 2 Kentucky in the tournament’s second round. That would grant us a rematch of 2014’s classic tournament dust-up that saw No. 8 Kentucky sever No. 1 Wichita’s undefeated season.
This year, Wichita is suffering from the detested strength of schedule curse. The MVC isn’t exactly a premier college basketball conference, and anyway, the Shockers own early season out-of-conference wins over teams like Oklahoma and Tulsa.
They also lost to Michigan State — who’s been mediocre this year, but is still in name a Big Ten team — in a November tournament.
The Shockers unfortunately can’t boast any signature assassinations to push them up to a No. 5 or 6 line this year, and that’s too bad.