Six of the coaches at Sunday’s news conference talked about the benefits of playing in the Maui Invitational, win or lose. This experience should toughen a team and provide a measuring stick against good competition. Coaches from places such as Oklahoma and Washington can say that, confident the remainder of their schedule will give them plenty of chances for good victories.
Wichita State is in a different place. A Shocker loss today doesn’t mean anything is decided. They still have a game at San Diego State. It’s undetermined how much games against LSU and Tulsa might help the RPI. There’s a BracketBusters game at home in February. However, this is an opportunity that WSU doesn’t want to let slip by. The 2005-06 Shockers lost to Illinois and Michigan State and still easily earned an at-large spot because of the strength of the MVC. The MVC is not on a similar track this season, so that’s not something WSU can count on.
This is a unique game for WSU. I can’t remember the last time it was evenly matched, perhaps even a favorite, against a high-profile program with a lot at stake. Win today, and the week is off to a great start. Lose today, and the week could turn into a major letdown by Wednesday.
One of my memories of Maui is Ball State’s upset of Kansas in 2001. The Jayhawks cramped up a lot in that game. WSU assistant coach Chris Jans remembers that game, as well. WSU coaches kept their players out of the sun yesterday and told them to drink water, water and more water. Around Maui
Kentucky coach John Calipari isn’t worried about only having 10 players. UConn also looks at today’s game as a chance to show something to the college basketball world. It doesn’t appear the Shockers are going to get an overconfident BCS bunch. Michigan State wins a lot of games and wants to win three more here to earn an elusive title. Spartan coachs Tom Izzo gracefully wears the mantle of favorite.