The score: Wichita State 81, Drake 58
Key stats: WSU outscored the Bulldogs 34-16 in the paint and 23-7 off the bench. Drake shot 35.6 percent from the field and went 7 of 9 from the line. It went 24 of 36 in the earlier meeting, a 93-86 triple-overtime win on Jan. 28.
Records: DU 16-14, 9-9 MVC; WSU 26-4, 16-2
- WSU led the MVC in scoring margin in conference games at plus 14.1. Creighton is second at plus 6.6. Everybody else is in the negative, and that stat reflects how the conference standings played out. The Shockers played consistently high-level basketball for two months and it didn’t seem to matter much who the opponent was. WSU swept aside Creighton in Omaha more easily than it did sixth-seeded Missouri State. When February started, it appeared to be a tough month because the Shockers already had dispatched Bradley and Southern Illinois. WSU made it look easy, winning seven straight MVC games (and at Davidson) by an average margin of 15.8 points. Drake coach Mark Phelps called WSU a Sweet 16 team. “They’ve got clearly defined roles, no one is trying to be a hero,” he said. “When you have really good players and you have a really good system, if you do that, you’re going to have success.”
- This may end up being WSU’s greatest accomplishment this season. That won’t sit well with fans of the NCAA Tournament. While the NCAAs are obviously the big goal and a great test of basketball skill, the MVC regular season is a two-month, 18-game grind. If the Shockers play deep into March, it may be time to reevaluate. However, a 16-2 record in MVC play stamps this team as one of WSU’s best, regardless of what happens in March.
- How elite is 16-2? Four previous MVC teams (WSU 1983, Illinois State 1998, SIU in 2003 and 2004) did it in an 18-game schedule. Bradley (1986) and Indiana State (1979) went 16-0. So that’s a short list these 2012 Shockers join. Of those six, two (Indiana State and Illinois State) also won the MVC Tournament (WSU didn’t participate in 1983 due to NCAA sanctions).
- WSU doesn’t play again until Friday, which gives players such as Joe Ragland (headache) and Garrett Stutz (ankle) time to rest up. This time off should help the Shockers. I don’t see them losing their edge.
- Besides Creighton, which teams would worry WSU the most in St. Louis? Missouri State tops my list, largely because of Kyle Weems. He is the kind of player who could get hot and take over a game. Caleb Patterson gives MSU size to combat Stutz. Illinois State, a possible semifinal opponent, is also scary because of its size.
Next up: vs. Indiana State or Southern Illinois, noon, Friday in St. Louis