“They are more an amalgamation of well-matched misfits than an amassment of talent."
- ESPN.com columnist Dana O’Neil on Wichita State’s atypical top 10 ten roster.
It’s always interesting to gauge the national perception of a program you follow carefully, especially when you consider that the perception is probably produced from a snap shot or two.
Every writer in the country knows the story about Cleanthony Early losing a brother to drowning, but how many notice that he still has a tendency to take possessions off defensively, or go up, unnecessarily, with one hand for rebound when he should use two?
That’s not to pick on Cle, who should get plenty of All-American consideration — but it’s those types of things that’ll determine how loud the narrative on Wichita State will get.
In the meantime, the only bad opinion is no opinion. It may bother fans to no end when people are taking shots at their team, but all it means is that their team is in the discussion—come late March there will only be a handful of such teams, let’s hope the Shocks are around to be doubted then.
Indiana State folo
It was all set up for failure - travel issues throwing them off schedule, one of the biggest crowds since Larry Bird in Terre Haute, an opponent with a longer list of why the game was more important to them, but the Shockers never flinched. If you told me that both Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker were going to have relatively off games, that WSU would be outrebounded and turn it over more often than Indiana State … I would have guessed that the streak ended at 23.
So how’d they do it?
Remember me warning you not to expect Indiana State to have the same kind of night they suffered in Wichita? Never mind. Wichita State produced the Sycamores second worst shooting effort of the season after hounding them into their worst three weeks ago. Wichita State plays the type of defense that takes a collective toll. Not only are they good on the ball, but they’re tough and physical off it and that’s what helps to wear down an opponent. The Sycamores shot just 32% in two games against the Shocks; they managed just 10-40 three pointers and shot about 10 percent worse at the line than they normally do.
Wichita State hasn’t been great offensively of late, but they continue to avoid all four of their scorers shutting down simultaneously. Van Vleet and Baker don’t produce as normal last night, but Tekele Cotton exceeds his average totals and Early is able to make big plays down the stretch, before Chadrack Lufile steps up and knocks down four of six free throws to ice it. To a man this team expects to win every time out and that’s what they’ve done. It’s remarkable.
Wichita State is far more talented than any team in the Valley, so you wonder how much they’re getting out of games like last night. Sure they were pushed in a challenging atmosphere and that’s good from a competitive standpoint, but they clearly didn’t play real well (Gregg Marshall will be particularly hard on them about rebounding, a real pet peeve of his—it’s only the second time this season they’ve been outrebounded).
Can they find a way to build on their overall game as they chase this unbeaten streak? Can they get to 31 and oh and be playing well? Even against lesser opponents, as long as the steak goes—the pressure is going to build. Funny thing about pressure—everyone wants to be good enough to have it, but are rarely comfortable when they do. So far, so good.