NCAA Basketball: Why Wichita State is poised to run the table again
NCAA men's basketball has seen two teams finish the regular season undefeated over the last four seasons. The Wichita State Shockers pulled it off in the 2013-2014 season, and the Kentucky Wildcats, who defeated the Shockers in the tournament in 2014 to end their bid for a perfect season, pulled it off in the 2014-2015 season.
That two nearly became a three last season when the Gonzaga Bulldogs came one game away from finishing the regular season unbeaten. Well, that two may very well become a three this upcoming season, as the Shockers appear to be poised to pull it off yet again.
In April, the Shockers were added to the American Athletic Conference from the Missouri Valley Conference, where they had played since 1949. The MVC has not recently fielded much depth, so Wichita State typically had a very easy schedule. While the AAC is a step up from the MVC, this was a perfect year for the team to move up and take on a slightly tougher schedule.
In a sport where "one-and-done" players dominate, the teams that tend to field players for more than one season have been actually been the most successful in the tournament as of late, with Villanova and North Carolina winning the past two national championships with a combined one starting a freshman in their respective championship seasons.
If there is one team bringing back an excessive amount of talent compared to other teams this season, it is Wichita State. Only John Robert Simon and Zach Bush were seniors last season, and they combined for an average of just 6.7 minutes and 1.5 points per game.
Wichita State as a team averaged 82.1 points per game last season, tied for 10th among tournament teams, so they will be losing hardly any major production from those two players. But that isn't all they have going for them. They are pretty much keeping their entire team together, and that team is one that has already started to jell.
They were knocked out in a 3-point loss to Kentucky this past season in the Round of 32, and Kentucky ended up being knocked out by North Carolina, who went on to win the national championship, in a 2-point game. There was no doubt that they can compete with any team in the nation out on the court last year, and there will be even less doubt this year.
All of those facts and statistics bode very well for them and set them above the other top teams in the nation. But what widens the gap is their abundant depth. They're not reliant on one or two players like many teams are. In fact, they really don't heavily rely on any of their starting five. None of their players averaged more than 26.7 minutes per game last season, and none of them average more than 11.5 points per game either.
Sure, they moved up from the MVC to the AAC, which will make things more of a challenge. But Wichita State is no longer a Cinderella team. This is not 2013. The Shockers have arguably the deepest and most talented roster in college basketball, and it is a roster that features many players who are already jelling with one another. This team is poised to not only run the table in the regular season but perhaps to become the first team with a perfect season since the 1975-1976 Indiana Hoosiers. It is officially time to stop sleeping on the Shockers.