Wichita State completed the best regular season in college basketball history after moving to 31-0 with a 68-45 win over Missouri State.
The Shockers are the first team to finish the year undefeated since Saint Joseph's in 2003-04, who went 27-0 before losing in its conference tournament. However, no team had ever had as many wins as Wichita State in an undefeated season, as seasons are now longer.
ESPN noted the accomplishment and its relevance:
Wichita St. is UNDEFEATED. Now and forever, history will remember this team was 31-0. #Perfection— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 1, 2014
Head coach Gregg Marshall had this to say after the latest win, via Matt Norlander of CBS Sports:
Very proud of these guys, of how they've handled this. There's been a lot of focus, both positive and negative about this team. ... They're fun to be around, and they deserve this 31-0.
As Jeff Goodman of ESPN notes, this is an impressive feat regardless of the opponents throughout the season:
Wichita State has successfully completed the regular-season without a loss. Impressive -- no matter the schedule.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 1, 2014
Jay Bilas of ESPN also discussed the accomplishment:
Fair to question whether Wichita State is THE best team. But, NO question that Shockers are among the elite. Amazing season, amazing team.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) March 1, 2014
The question about the schedule is a relevant one, however. Wichita State did not play a single team this season that was ranked in the Top 25 at the time, and the squad entered the day with just two wins over opponents in the RPI Top 50.
By comparison, Kansas has 12 such wins to move to No. 1 in the RPI.
Although this does not say much about which team is better, it is clear that the Shockers are not completely battle-tested heading into the NCAA tournament. Then again, it is almost impossible to doubt their ability on the court.
Against Missouri State, the Shockers were aggressive early and got out to an impressive 27-10 lead. They continued to force turnovers and turn them into open shots before building a 39-21 lead at halftime.
At the final whistle, Cleanthony Early had a game-high 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Ron Baker added 13 points while point guard Fred VanVleet helped everyone out with seven assists.
How far will Wichita State go in the NCAA tournament?
Wichita State outrebounded their opponent 43-25 while holding Missouri State to only 31.4 percent shooting. This gave the Bears little chance of victory, a feeling that many have felt at the hands of the Shockers this season.
It will be an uphill battle for Wichita State to keep this up and end the year with a national title. In the NCAA tournament, the squad will face teams with NBA-level talent and athleticism that has not been seen all season.
On the other hand, the Shockers reached the Final Four a year ago and have the confidence to make another deep run after going undefeated in the regular season. They also have more talent on the roster than many give them credit for as well as a solid coach in Marshall.
Although they will not be able to sneak up on teams like they did last year, they still should be a top contender to bring home a national championship.
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