“We won’t be judged on this, the way we play in the tournament is how we’ll be judged. If we play well, people will say 31-0 was legit. If we don’t play well, they’ll say 31-0 was a fluke. That’s the sad thing about the world we live in.”
---Shocker star Fred Van Vleet after finishing a perfect season
Perspective is a thing best gained by time and space. It is a ‘sad thing about our world’ that it spins so quickly we barely have time to appreciate those moments that scream to be savored. The Shockers will have that time, but never again that moment---that fleeting moment where together they shared in something historic.
Today the page turns, their sights turn collectively to the next challenge in St. Louis and beyond that to Selection Sunday. March will end up being the measure of this team as it is any with National Championship aspirations, but no one will ever be able to take away that which has never been accomplished---a 31 and oh regular season.
“This group really enjoys a challenge, they embrace whatever is in front of them. They embrace the challenge, the grind. That’s how you achieve something like this. Grind every day and fall in love with the process”.
--- Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall on the magic of his team
We live in a time of social media where anyone can speak without consequence, without authority, without responsibility, without a clue. Anyone who’s seen Wichita State, not just glanced at their highlights or a box score, but really watched them—knows how good this team is. Anyone who knows basketball—the game, not just the name across the jersey—knows how hard it is to go undefeated in any league. If it were easy, it would have been done more than five times in 38 years.
When did we become a culture who takes as much joy in tearing down others as we do propping up our own team? Wichita State needn’t make any apology for winning every game on its schedule, nor should they feel badly about the envy that some express in the form of vitriol. The Shockers are in the national discussion because they’ve earned it and anyone who thinks they don’t belong in it is nothing short of an idiot. Sorry about that, my mother always warned about resorting to name calling, but I’ve yet to grow up.
One man’s opinion---
I don’t know where this will end up, but it has been amongst the most amazing stories I’ve covered in 33 years in the business of covering. Last year’s Final Four, the 1989 Shocker baseball team, the 1998 Kansas State football team and Danny and the Miracles in ’88 and Mario Chalmers in ’08 had been my top five, but I reserve the right to re-shuffle.
If the Shockers do what they’ve never done in St. Louis-- they’ll have matched the best start in college basketball history at 34 and oh and they’ll have done it on a floor they’re likely to be playing on again two weeks later in the NCAA’s. It can’t be set up any better—a chance to win their first Valley Tournament title in St. Louis, with the reward of staying close to home for the opening weekend of the NCAA. I personally hope that WSU and KU are in the same pod, it may be the closest they’ve come to one another in years and in years to come.
Speaking of the ‘Hawks---
Bill Self hates backing into the Big 12 title not that KU didn’t deserve it for an amazing tenth straight time. The Jayhawks may have the nation’s top RPI, but they also have seven losses. Kansas is 5-5 in true road games and is 9-6 in games played outside of Lawrence (4-1 on a neutral court). I loved his comment after the loss at Oklahoma State, when he told his managers to throw their conference championship shirts and hats under the bus because, in his own words, “we lost the right to celebrate”.