Highlights of the week ahead:
▪ Wichita State’s (and the Missouri Valley Conference’s) work to improve schedules pays off big this week. The Shockers play 7-1 UNLV on Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPNU) at Koch Arena and 7-1 Utah on Saturday (2:30 p.m., ESPN2) at Intrust Bank Arena.
By Saturday evening, WSU’s at-large resume can be strengthened significantly or sinking again.
The Shockers own a program-best 34-game home win streak (32 in Koch Arena) that started in 2013. It has won 33 straight home non-conference games, a streak that started in 2011.
▪ WSU’s women’s basketball team plays No. 8 Tennessee on Friday (7 p.m., Cox Kansas) at Koch Arena. I can’t imagine the Shockers have played a more significant non-conference game, considering the reputation of the opponent and the connections to WSU coach Jody Adams.
Unfortunately, the Shockers (1-5) are in no shape to give Tennessee a battle. Adams had six healthy, eligible players available in Friday’s home loss to Southeast Missouri State.
It’s a landmark night for Shocker women’s basketball, which last season lost 54-51 at Tennessee.
34 Wichita State’s current home win streak, a program best
22 WSU’s home win streak from Feb. 18, 1982-Dec. 22, 1983
20 WSU’s home win streaks from Dec. 12, 1987-Jan. 16, 1989 and Jan. 10, 2012-Jan. 29, 2013
17 WSU’s home win streak from Nov. 15, 2009-March 17, 2010
▪ Wichita State’s volleyball team put itself in rare air in the coach Chris Lamb era. Friday’s 3-1 win over Kansas State made the 2015 Shockers the second team to win the Missouri Valley Conference regular season, MVC Tournament, and an NCAA Tournament match.
The 2004 team also accomplished that triple.
Lamb picked up his first win against Kansas State, three seasons after he defeated Kansas for the first time, also in NCAA play.
Nobody beats Nebraska at Nebraska and a 3-0 loss to the Huskers ended WSU’s season on Saturday.
▪ Saturday’s 68-53 basketball win at Saint Louis snapped a three-game losing streak for the Shockers and marked the return of Fred VanVleet to the lineup.
The series with the Billikens provides an example of the vagaries of non-conference scheduling. When the schools started the series, Saint Louis was running off 20-win seasons. The series started with a 2013 game between two NCAA Tournament teams.
Last season, Saint Louis slipped to 11-21.
Saint Louis and Tulsa give WSU solid geographic rivals that it can use as foundations for a good non-conference schedule, eliminating some of the scramble and uncertainty. Add in Creighton in the future and things look even better. However, the Billikens aren’t as helpful as needed if they slump into RPI disaster, as they did last season at No. 273.
Next season’s game in Wichita ends the current contract and it will be interesting to see if the schools extend it.
Around the MVC:
▪ Valley volleyball celebrated four NCAA teams on selection night. While WSU won its opening match, Missouri State (3-1 to Missouri), Southern Illinois (3-0 to Illinois) and Northern Iowa (3-2 to Marquette) lost.
After such a strong season, the Valley can look forward to good things again in 2016. Seventeen of the 21 All-MVC selections are eligible to return next season, a count that includes Missouri State’s Player of the Year Lily Johnson and WSU’s Libero of the Year Dani Mostrom.
WSU will return four of its five All-MVC (first and second teams) picks.
▪ Creighton coach Greg McDermott had this to say, to the Omaha World-Herald, before Saturday’s loss at Loyola: “It seems strange that we’re doing it at this point in time. If Porter Moser wasn’t the coach there, we probably wouldn’t be doing it. We have a lot of respect for him and with his connection to Creighton, so it’s the right thing to do.”
Moser is a former Creighton player. McDermott, in 2010, coached at Iowa State.
Whatever your feelings about BracketBusters, it went out on a high note for the MVC. The teams met in 2010 in Omaha and put off the return game until Saturday.
Missouri State won 64-63 at Oklahoma State on Saturday. Illinois State’s strange season continued with a home loss to UAB.
I’m hesitant to put too much on Southern Illinois’ 8-1 start, which features four wins against teams No. 246 or lower in the RPI. The arrival of guard Mike Rodriguez seems to make a big difference for the Salukis, who were picked ninth in the MVC after going 12-21 last season.
How much attention should we pay to RPI?
Well, Incarnate Word is No. 39 in warrennolan.com’s ranking and No. 27 on ESPN.com. Incarnate Word is 3-2 with no NCAA Division I wins.
However, the MVC needs to finish the final three weeks of non-conference play strong. Evansville at No. 44 is the top MVC team, followed by No. 92 SIU, No. 94 Northern Iowa and No. 138 Wichita State. Bradley, Drake and Indiana State are all 200 or lower.
According to warrennolan.com, the MVC is 2-10 vs. the RPI top 50 (UNI over North Carolina and Indiana State over Hofstra).
Monday’s reading recommendation:
John Helsley of The Oklahoman details the shame piled on Oklahoma State by the gritty Bears.