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.
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Their fans, along for this memorable ride, just don’t want it to end.