DES MOINES What I dont understand about the Wichita State naysayers is their forgetfulness.
It was just last April, after all, that the Shockers played in the Final Four. I was in Atlanta. I saw it. I even remember it, sort of.
WSU won four games in the NCAA Tournament, then had Louisville on the ropes in the national semifinals before letting a 12-point second-half lead slip away.
But now it has become a national parlor game to question the Shockers from every direction. Their 21-0 record WSU gained No. 21 with a 78-61 win over Drake on Saturday night at the Knapp Center is being assaulted by those who believe Wichita State is a fraud, hardly worthy of walking in unbeaten unison with Arizona and Syracuse.
Hey, its not the Shockers fault theyre 21-0. You would think theyve done something wrong, that they should be sent to stick their noses in a corner until they learn to behave.
Wichita State is at least a good college basketball team and perhaps even a great one. Have the Shockers played the toughest schedule in the country this season? No, far from it.
Is the Missouri Valley Conference providing the proper tests as Wichita State moves forward? Its a fair question, but all the Shockers can do is play the teams that show up in the other uniforms.
Thats what Drake did Saturday. If only the Bulldogs had been as confident as the several hundred in their student section, who started chanting Overrated before the opening tip.
I never heard that before a game, WSU coach Gregg Marshall said.
The students kept up a verbal exchange with the Shockers throughout, oblivious to the growing disadvantage on the scoreboard.
They even said Nick (Wiggins) was adopted, Wichita State senior Cleanthony Early said of his teammate.
You can say a lot of things. But there was nothing Drake or its students could actually do about the steamrolling Shockers, who continue to confound some around the country who just dont know what to make of them.
The Shockers look like a good bet to vault to No. 3 in the rankings this week, ahead of Michigan State and Villanova. That is unless they get jumped by Florida or San Diego State, which could happen.
You would think that what WSU accomplished last season would resonate more than it is, especially because so many key players from that team (Early, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Tekele Cotton) are on this team.
And to be fair, Wichita State is getting a lot of national adulation. But the skeptics often drown out the believers.
I just go with the flow, day by day, interview by interview, Marshall said. I try to answer questions as candidly and honestly as I can. This is a very good basketball team. We dont have to apologize to anybody about our schedule. We put it out there that well play the best teams in the country. We will take all comers, but it takes two to tango. You can only play the teams that will play you.
Marshall added Saint Louis and Alabama this season. The Shockers played Tennessee and BYU. Western Kentucky, Oral Roberts and Davidson have all had outstanding seasons in the recent past but are struggling in 2013-14.
Thats not Wichita States fault.
The Valley is another story. The Valley is down, way down, and not just because Creighton left for the Big East and Loyola was chosen as the Bluejays replacement.
Most every team in the conference is having a down season, with the exception of the Shockers and Indiana State. The Valley, to which Wichita State has been a loyal member for close to 70 years, is not doing the Shockers any favors.
The Valley is in transition, as we know, Marshall said. We play the schedule that weve got and so far weve played it pretty well. These are really fine young people that were dealing with. They deserve all the credit and accolades that were getting.
And doubts, I suppose, are just a part of it.
Any of the people who want to say were not this and were not that the fact is were No. 5 in the country, Marshall said.
And dominant. Yes, the Valley is down. But the Shockers, for the most part, arent messing around with these teams. Theyre blitzing them. WSU shot 52.7 percent against Drake, outrebounded the Bulldogs by 17 and led by as many as 25 points.
If the Shockers are overrated, as the Drake students professed, time will bear that out.
For now, though, this is an unbeaten team, set to be ranked No. 3 and coming off a Final Four. Sounds to me like theyre right where they belong.