I took a look at the collegebasketball rankings today and noticed something I thought was interesting. Perhaps even fascinating, although fascination can be fleeting. I hate that about fascination.
Anyway, take a look at the teams receiving votes but ranked behind the No. 23 Wichita State Shockers.
It’s a list that includes 24th-ranked UNLV, No. 25 New Mexico and a slew of teams on the outside of the Top 25 in the Associated Press poll: VCU, North Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, UCLA, Marquette, Oregon, Temple, UNLV, Maryland, Wyoming and Pittsburgh.
Guess what VCU, New Mexico, Temple and Pittsburgh have in common? They’re the only schools among those 13 that have not a national championship.
So as we approach the middle of January, Wichita State is having a better season than nine teams that have combined for 30 titles: UCLA, 11; Kentucky, 7; North Carolina, 5; Oklahoma State, 2: and one each for UNLV, Oregon, Maryland and Wyoming.
Are the Shockers actually better than all of those teams?
Who knows? And at this point, who really cares? The best thing about rankings is the conversation they precipitate.
There has been a lot of conversation around Kansas the past couple of days because, since 1964, all three of the state’s Big Three – KU, KSU and WSU – are ranked in the Top 25. That’s cool. And it’s something we Kansans can boast about.
This has always been a basketball state and we’re playing the game at a high level this season with only four losses between the three schools.
Can it continue?
Sure, why not?
Kansas, ranked No. 6, should breeze through the Big 12, relatively speaking. The Jayhawks have won this conference when it was a much stronger league. This season, there doesn’t look to be an obvious threat to KU’s Big 12 dominance.
Kansas State is one of the three or four Big 12 teams that could finish second to Kansas, I suppose, although I’m still concerned with the Wildcats’ inconsistency. But you can’t argue with a neutral-court win over Florida and a home-court victory Saturday over a much-improved Oklahoma State team, a loss that knocked the Cowboys out of the rankings and vaulted K-State seven spots higher, to No. 18.
Wichita State has overcome the loss of five seniors from last season’s NCAA Tournament squad and injuries to key players this season to win 14 of 15 games. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for the Shockers and their coach, Gregg Marshall, who continues to prove himself as one of the nation’s best-kept secrets.
That’s OK. I’m sure most Wichita State fans would just as soon he continue to be kept under wraps. As is the case every season, apprehension mounts as to how much longer Marshall will stick around Wichita State as he continues to win games.
All that’s left for him to do at Wichita State is to win a Missouri Valley Conference tournament and win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Those would be huge accomplishments considering: A) The Shockers have never won the Valley tournament in the 22 years it has been played in St. Louis; and, B) WSU has won only two NCAA Tournament games since 1981 and both came in 2006.
As a Jan. 19 showdown with Creighton at Koch Arena approaches, the Shockers are in the midst of one of their best seasons. But it’s still early, only three games into the Missouri Valley Conference season. WSU needs to get healthy and especially needs to have senior center Carl Hall back in the lineup in order to make a run in March.
Exciting times. And, at least for the moment, WSU fans are allowed to chant: “We’re better than Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, Oklahoma State, Marquette, Oregon, UNLV, Maryland and Wyoming.”
That’s a long chant.