To some, it appears Wichita State is romping over a collection of weak foes. Bradley coach Geno Ford sees something different.
In its past three games, WSU accumulated winning margins of 50, 49 and 39 points. What that means for Saturday's showdown with No. 21 Creighton is unknown.
It certainly made an impression on Ford. He watched — and could do little — as the Shockers defeated his team 90-51 on Wednesday, WSU's biggest road win against an Missouri Valley Conference opponent and Bradley's worst home loss to any opponent.
"I think they're playing with an edge," Ford said. "They should feel good about themselves. Hopefully, they don't feel too good about themselves and keep that edge, because that's what making them good right now."
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In Ford's mind, the Shockers (11-2, 1-0 MVC) can confront one of the reasons for that edge against Creighton (10-2, 0-1). The Bluejays hogged most of the spotlight in November and December by virtue of a 7-0 start and star sophomore Doug McDermott. Creighton climbed into the national rankings while WSU watched.
Ford saw a Shocker team feeling overlooked as it came to Peoria. Creighton lost its MVC opener 77-65 to Missouri State on Wednesday in Omaha.
"Those guys (WSU) are really good , too, and I don't think they've gotten the same national respect that they deserve," he said. "When I saw their scores against Chicago State and (Newman) —they beat those teams by 50. To beat people like that, you have to have an edge."
The Shockers see themselves differently. They are playing hard from start to finish because that's what they learned by coming up short in the MVC race the past two seasons.
"Every time you step out on the court, you try to play with an edge," guard Joe Ragland said. "We work hard in practice and Coach (Gregg Marshall) pushes us."
Drafting behind preseason favorite Creighton might work well for the Shockers. Two losses in Puerto Rico diminished national expectations. A win over nationally ranked UNLV raised them, but not out of Creighton's shadow.
"I think we do have something to prove, though," WSU center Garrett Stutz said. "We're a very talented team and we've got a lot of new guys, a lot of guys that haven't been through the Valley before. We're trying to prepare them for it."
The Shockers showed Marshall many good things in the win over Bradley, even if the Braves are picked to finish last. Bradley (5-8, 0-1) didn't look nearly as feeble in losses to Wisconsin and Michigan. WSU didn't let the holiday break or Saturday's big game detract from Wednesday's business. Marshall doesn't see his team playing with an edge.
"I think, with your own team, you see the deficiencies, and with other teams and the kids you're recruiting, you see what they can do," Marshall said. "I'm just glad to get out of here with a one-point win, much less the way we won."
WSU went 8-1 in MVC road games last season, winning seven of those by double digits. Ford, in his first season at Bradley, didn't see that team play. He did see the current Shockers win with depth and experience, just like the 2010-11 team.
WSU's starters scored between 10 and 14 points and two reserves added eight each. The bench scored 31 points to Bradley's 11. WSU scored 51 points in the second half, matching Bradley's total.
Ford's defense couldn't handle a team with so many good shooters, forcing the Braves to play one-on-one in the post. Stutz led WSU with 14 points and power forward Carl Hall added 10.
"They're deep and they're athletic," Ford said. "You watch the game (Wednesday), and I don't know who their best player is. You could go half to half and you could argue Ragland is the most important guy. Then you could go ahead and argue it's (Toure) Murry. Wait another half, and you could be arguing somebody else."
The argument moves to Saturday. With Bradley out of the way, the Shockers can admit it wasn't easy to take it one game at a time with the Bluejays coming to Koch Arena.
"I've been thinking about them the whole Christmas break," Hall said.