When Jody Adams was constructing the non-conference schedule for the Wichita State women’s basketball team, she laid down tests of varying degrees.
There were chances to see what the Shockers are striving for in playing nationally-ranked Oklahoma on the road. There were opportunities to pick up quality wins over teams such as Kansas State, Saint Joseph’s and Green Bay.
And then Adams created the Winter Classic, which will be played on Saturday and Sunday and feature a round robin of sorts between WSU, Austin Peay, Texas-Pan American, and Nebraska-Omaha, to simulate what the Missouri Valley tournament will be like playing on consecutive days.
Wichita State set out to prove last season’s championship was not a one-year fad, and it has done so by passing nearly every test with a 7-2 record. The Shockers face Austin Peay (3-7) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and UTPA (6-4) on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Nebraska-Omaha will play UTPA at 1 p.m. Saturday and Austin Peay at noon Sunday.
“It’s all about proving your consistency,” Adams said. “When it’s all said and done, all that matters is that you’re consistently there. I smile when I think back to all the kids that have come through here and have helped grow and move this program along and taken this program to a place where it’s never been before. Now we’ve got to keep it there.”
Last weekend’s 63-58 road victory at Green Bay will go a long way in fortifying the Shockers as a mid-major power. It was their sixth straight win and most impressive, even ranking ahead of the 23-point win over Kansas State in Manhattan.
“We’re trying to establish a tradition here and prove we’re not about one-year seasons,” WSU junior Alex Harden said. “You have to repeat good seasons and keep building from there.”
Even though this season’s team is young, the inexperience on the court has been trumped by the experience of having winning expectations under Adams.
“We’ve accepted the responsibility for where our program is at and I think they want to protect that now,” Adams said. “There’s a hunger. There’s an understanding of working for the future and trying to keep that consistency. I’m really pleased with the way we have grown so far, but we still have a long ways to go.”
While WSU will be favored heavily in each of its games, Adams designed the event to prepare the seven newcomers for what it’s like to play at a high level on back-to-back days.
“When you’re sore and you feel like you can’t push through, you have to realize that you have to go to another mental level,” Harden said. “You have to keep performing at that same high level to get a ring, and that’s what we’re trying to teach them.”