Shocker fans watching ESPN received a jolt last night and today. Joe Lunardi puts Wichita State among the last four out. Optimists say “Hey, that’s us on TV.” Pessimists grumble about the losses to Creighton, Drake and Evansville. How much help would one or two of those be now?
The last four out is pretty far out of the NCAA Tournament. Upsets will happen in conference tournaments A lot must go right for a team in WSU’s position (RPI No. 43, non-con strength of schedule No. 284). It’s better, however, than the next four out. MVC commissioner Doug Elgin needs to put the best face on today’s game in case selection committee members are listening. He thinks WSU’s play this weekend means today’s game isn’t necessarily an all-or-nothing deal for the Shockers.“We are in a position today where we don’t have just one scenario where we can get two teams,” Elgin said. “Wichita State has risen in the RPI. Their profile is such now that they have a chance to get in if they don’t win today. If you look at the standard of the ‘eye test’ . . . they have an NCAA-caliber team, there’s no question in my mind. That’s a very good basketball team.”I think the biggest concern for WSU is not falling behind early. This is its first time on this kind of stage. UNI is experienced in this atmosphere. If the Shockers try to do too much, play too fast, or play too slow, it’s a problem. Down 24-12 to Northern Iowa is like being down 30-12 to a normal team. Comebacks are difficult against a veteran team that controls the tempo, plays defense and makes free throws.
Beyond that, the Shockers match up well with the Panthers, as the two regular-season meetings demonstrated.