With nine wins, all by 12 or more points, Wichita State earned the right to play a real rarity – an honest-to-goodness important non-conference game – at home – against a ranked opponent.
That doesn’t happen often around here, or at any Missouri Valley Conference school. The Shockers meet No. 23 Texas Tech (likely to move up on Monday) on Saturday at Koch Arena. We don’t know how Tech will do in the Big 12. We know the Red Raiders are 9-0 with a top 20 RPI with a win over nationally ranked Washington. If they go 8-8 or better in the Big 12, they are probably in the NCAA Tournament. Unless they collapse in the Big 12 (and let’s not totally dismiss that possibility), this is a chance for a quality win for WSU.
It’s hard to find an opportunity like this in recent WSU history, where a good team gets a chance to meet a ranked opponent at home. Mark Turgeon’s teams didn’t play a ranked non-conference team at home. Games against Providence and Tulsa topped his list of high-profile visitors when the Shockers were playing at a March level. Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Washington came to Wichita early in the Turgeon era, before the Shockers were ready for the big stage. In his third season, WSU played KSU and OSU at the Kansas Coliseum – but the Shockers were 3-2 before playing the Wildcats and 4-3 before playing the Cowboys.
Mike Cohen’s second team beat No. 12 Alabama, but it was 0-2 entering the game. The last ranked non-conference team to play at WSU was Mississippi in 1997. The Shockers entered the game 2-5.
You must go back to the Eddie Fogler days to find a comparable event. The Shockers played No. 11 Purdue (losing 80-78 in OT) in 1987-88 and No. 19 Kansas (winning 54-49) in 1986-87.
It’s been a long time.Around the Valley
Had Creighton played WSU’s schedule, it would probably be 9-1. The Jays didn’t, and you have to wonder if their confidence is shaken after another loss.Unbeaten Illinois State is winning with Alex Rubin as a starter whose contributions don’t show up in stats.SIU improves to 5-2 with an easy win.Missouri State is 9-0 after a win at Arkansas State.