by Ryan Mayer
Alright we’ve come to the time of the year when the debate will finally be “settled” about Wichita State. They’ve been put in arguably the hardest region in the bracket and could be knocked out in the second round (note I refuse to call the Round of 32 the third round, sorry play in teams those games aren’t a round) by either Kentucky or Kansas State or they could get to the Final Four. Let me say this to start, winning 34 games in a row is an accomplishment I don’t care what level of competition. You could tell me you won 34 consecutive games of Mario Kart and I’d be impressed.
That being said let’s examine some of the arguments against the Shockers this year.
The Missouri Valley Conference is awful.: Okay fine, the MVC doesn’t have Creighton anymore and Indiana State wasn’t that great this season. Most people couldn’t name half the teams in the conference. If you look at the numbers the Missouri Valley was 11th in the RPI right around average and in adjusted offense and defense rankings at kenpom.com. They’re .01 percentage points behind the Mountain west a conference that has two great teams (SDSU and UNM) and nobody else.
They haven’t played anybody: Okay you’ve heard about the Tennessee win, or the St. Louis win, or BYU and your response is “Ryan two of those teams barely made the field and one (St. Louis) is in a tailspin and might get upset in the first round!”
Yeah I know I hear you. Let me present a counter-point: if you were a power program (Duke, Kansas, UNC, Kentucky, etc.) would you schedule Wichita St in your out of conference schedule? You may answer yes right away, easy win, but here’s why they don’t get scheduled: it’s a lose-lose for the major program. If you win, you were supposed to win. I you lose, then you become the team that lost to Wichita State. So yeah, I’m sure Gregg Marshall called those schools, but I’m doubly sure that those schools listened politely and said thanks but no thanks.
They would get blown out in the (fill in the blank conference): This is my favorite argument because people will say it without any idea of what the team looks like. It’s easy to say that. So you’re telling me that they would lose a ton of games in the SEC? Really? A conference that produced one more tournament team than the WCC and the Mountain West? Please. This is a hypothetical that is impossible to quantify with statistics so let’s not even go there.
We’ve taken a look at the arguments against them. We all know the arguments for and the main ones used to combat them are covered above so let’s skip that and get down to my conclusion. For my part, I am willing to say that Wichita State is a good team. Are they good enough to have gone undefeated in any conference in the country? Probably not. But they had a good run. They are eighth in adjusted offense, number 10 in adjusted defense and 160th in luck according to kenpom.com. For explanations of those stats go here.
What that means is the number of points scored per 100 possessions they would be expected to have against an average defense. Ditto for their defense against an average offense. Look these stats are based on box scores yes but they are adjusted for everyone to base them against an “average” offense or defense and the fact that this team shows up in the top 10 in both categories should speak for something.
Did they play in a bad conference? Yes.
Are they good enough to compete with the other top teams in the tourney? Absolutely.