It’s safe to say we all thought this was going to be a great Shocker basketball season. The combination of a Final Four buzz, so many returning players and a Missouri Valley Conference that didn’t figure to stand up to the Shockers much led to high hopes — probably the highest hopes since Antoine and Cliff, X and Aubrey.
But unbeaten? In March? C’mon, that’s storybook stuff.
Yet here are Gregg Marshall’s Shockers at 31-0, the first unbeaten regular season in college basketball since St. Joseph’s in 2003-04. The wise-beyond-their-sophomore-year guards, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. The shutdown defense of Tekele Cotton. The takeover abilities of Cleanthony Early. The three-headed post monster of Chadrack Lufile, Darius Carter and Kadeem Coleby.
They head to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this week with a nation watching their every dribble. The believers think the Shockers will roll through the Valley and be able to reach a remarkable second straight Final Four. The naysayers say they will wilt against better competition in the NCAA Tournament.
Their fans, along for this memorable ride, just don’t want it to end.