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Commentary Bob Lutz: Fans of the lone unbeaten can dare to dream

  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, at 10:31 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at 6:49 p.m.

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But it was just my imagination,

Running away with me.

It was just my imagination,

Running away with me.

Shocker basketball fans, are your imaginations running away with you?

Wichita State improved to 28-0 on Wednesday night with an 88-74 win at Loyola. The Shockers mostly forgot to play defense, but probably could have named their score. They were able to score at will against a Ramblers team that, like the rest of the clubs in the Missouri Valley Conference, simply isn’t worthy of being on the same floor as WSU.

Fred VanVleet and Cleanthony Early combined to score 40 points on 14 shots, which is completely and utterly absurd. They did make all 16 of their free-throw attempts, which explains away some, but not all, of the absurdity.

No WSU player took more than nine shots. Yet the team scored 88 points. Sometimes it’s difficult to make the math entirely fit the scope of the Shockers’ season. Math, or statistics, cannot fully explain this crazy ride.

And with only nine more days remaining in February, and what is sure to be a fascinating March peeking around the corner, it’s impossible for Shocker fans to contain their imaginations.

What is possible here? What is going on here?

Wichita State should run its record to 31-0 by the end of the regular season. And if there was ever a time for the Shockers to finally win the Valley tournament in St. Louis, wouldn’t this seem to be that time? St. Louis is WSU’s unconquered territory. There are all kinds of strange spirits at work in that town when it comes to the Shockers. But really? Isn’t it time?

Then Wichita State would be 34-0, and most likely (definitely?) a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers might even be assigned to St. Louis – that town again – for second- and third-round action, within six wins of a perfect, unbeaten, ridiculous, crazy, movie-inducing 40-0 season.

That’s the imagination talking. But just try to get her to be quiet.

You can tell yourself as a fan to take it one game at a time. You can use all the wonderful cliches you hear from the coaches and players. But you’re a fan. Self-control is not your forte. You’re a mess, beside yourself with the happy torture of speculation and mystery. This is the best book you’ve ever read. You want to go faster to see how it ends.

But there’s no way to go faster. The season unfolds, one game at a time. Next up is Drake on Saturday night at Koch Arena. It would take a gargantuan upset by the Bulldogs to stop your mind from racing. Kind of like the one that happened in Syracuse on Wednesday night, when the previously-unbeaten Orange lost at home in overtime to … wait for it … 6-19 Boston College.

So as much as you buy into this unbeaten talk, and as real as it looks, there are big bad wolves out there. And even a little, meek puppy like Boston College can sneak up and knock off a powerhouse occasionally. College basketball is a crazy sport. All sports are crazy sports.

The Shockers averted the Sports Illustrated jinx by beating Loyola on the very day the issue came out with Early, VanVleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and Chadrack Lufile on the cover.

And now that WSU is the nation’s only unbeaten team, attention will spike even higher. Everybody wants to tell this story. Everybody wants to understand this story.

How does a group of players who were largely under-recruited in high school or junior college follow up an incredible Final Four season with a just-as-incredible 28-0 record the next season?

This is a team that oozes intangibles. A team that pounds opponents into submission, having won 22 of its 28 by double digits.

Syracuse had been huffing and puffing in recent games, barely holding on as the pressure of being undefeated tightened. The Shockers seem oblivious. Pressure? What pressure? Game after game, they do what they do. They win.

Your imagination is running wild. I know it is. There are no bounds to where your mind can take you. Or where Wichita State can take you, for that matter.

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @boblutz.

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