Wichita State might grab a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which seems good. It might fall to a No. 7 or, bad news, a No. 8, which doesn’t seem like a fitting reward for a 28-4 team and a No. 17 RPI.
Regardless, Darron Boatright doesn’t feel frustrated when WSU’s lack of “quality” wins is pointed to as a negative. Shockers coaches and Boatright work months on their non-conference schedule to try to convince other coaches it is in their best interest to play WSU. After that, it’s out of their hands.
In November, WSU appeared to face one of its best non-conference schedules in decades. It didn’t work out as well as planned, especially if your standard is last season’s No. 1 seed. If your standard is 1990-2005, it worked fine.
CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm called it a thin resume. In the best “focus on the process, not the results” form, Boatright, senior assistant athletic director, works on the schedule, with help from the basketball office, and lets the season unfold.
“Our goal is not to play a guessing game with seeding,” he said. “Our goal is to have a non-conference schedule that’s worthy of an at-large berth, if our team is worthy.”
It is worth pausing to remember that WSU will earn its third at-large bid in the past four seasons on Sunday. The Shockers will finish in the top 50 of the RPI for a sixth straight season.
While WSU’s scheduling heft improved dramatically, it is still held hostage by a few key games each season. Scheduling teams such as Alabama, Seton Hall and Memphis are good gets, until they under-perform. Top-100 wins are nice and they help get WSU an at-large bid. It’s more helpful to move into the top 50 and push the Shockers into a higher seed. Last season, BYU and Saint Louis helped the Shockers; Alabama and Davidson did not.
In December, WSU went to Hawaii for a tournament that offered potential games against Nebraska and Colorado, both projected NCAA teams. Instead, WSU played neither and both have losing seasons.
“We don’t look at it as we’re trying to arrange a top-5 seed schedule,” Boatright said. “I don’t think anybody’s that smart.”
In the past two seasons, WSU has played 11 MVC games against top-100 teams, two against the top 50. That’s not nearly good enough.
WSU coaches need a few breaks in the non-conference schedule. Add in a three tournament games and WSU is generally looking at four or five games that will play a large role in determining power rankings.
“It does not behoove us ever to go out there and line up murder’s row,” Boatright said. “It’s only fair to the team. We have to have teams on the schedule where we can play our bench.”
Next season, WSU will continue series at Seton Hall and at Tulsa. Utah visits Intrust Bank Arena. Nevada, New Mexico State and Charleston Southern will come to Koch Arena as guarantee games.
The Orlando Classic features Alabama, Dayton, Iowa, Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Xavier and Monmouth.
Boatright said WSU will host a game in the MVC-Mountain West series.
“We don’t pretend to have all the answer, but the philosophies implemented over the past several years have been good to us,” he said. “Without question, that’s the philosophy Northern Iowa had this year and both of us are going to be rewarded for it.”