Just where is Wichita Statebasketball in a national scope?
The Shockers are in their second Sweet 16 in the past eight years. Only 29 other schools have been in multiple Sweet 16s during that time frame; another 30 have appeared in one Sweet 16 and a whole bunch
have reached that status once.
Going into tonight’s Sweet 16 game against La Salle at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Shockers are 109-32 the past four years. They reached the NIT in 2009-10, won the NIT in 2010-11, made a first-round NCAA Tournament exit in 2011-12 and this season have made it to where only three other WSU teams in history have gone.
Heady stuff. Gregg Marshall has taken the Shockers to new heights and there is no sign of a slow-down. WSU likely will start the 2013-14 season as a heavy favorite to win the Creighton-less Missouri Valley Conference and probably as a Top 25 club.
This all got me to thinking about where WSU – today – stacks up nationally. Where would I put them among the nation’s 345 Division I basketball schools?
So I went to work on some quick research. I found a group of programs that are obviously ahead of Wichita State. Then I defined a group that probably are ahead of the Shockers or at a similar level.
And I’m going to tell you, there’s no calling WSU a mid-major in today’s college basketball climate. The Shockers are a player with a bright future, an exciting present and a recent past that makes them viable in this discussion.
I’ve broken down the discussion into two categories: Clearly better and arguably better. Here we go:
Clearly better (19) – Florida, Duke, Georgetown, Gonzaga (15 consecutive tournaments), UCLA, Butler, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State, Indiana, Memphis, Louisville, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Xavier, Arizona, Syracuse, Kentucky, Marquette.
Arguably better (17) – Villanova, Connecticut, Oregon, UNLV, Baylor, New Mexico, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, Michigan, Kansas State, VCU, Illinois, Creighton, Miami (Fla.), BYU, Oklahoma State, Cincinnati.
The case can be made, with some conviction, that Wichita State is a top 20 program. Right now. As we live and breathe. Lose to La Salle in a few hours and perhaps that case becomes more difficult.
The Shockers are no fluke. This run in the Sweet 16 did not come out of nowhere, despite what those in the national media might want to tell you. Marshall has been building this program since the day he set foot in Wichita in 2007. And he’s not methodical. The Shockers have made steady, tangible progress in each of Marshall’s six seasons.
At some point, the mountain becomes more difficult to climb. That could easily be the case after this season, since Sweet 16s don’t grow on trees. Then again, there will be no shortage of talent on the WSU roster next season. Marshall has a history of success that dates back to his nine seasons at Winthrop. He and his staff know how to recruit and they know hold to mold players.
It’s an exciting time to be a Wichita State basketball fan with the Shockers on a historic run of success.
There are programs in better shape than WSU’s. But thanks to four strong seasons in a row, there aren’t many.