On the rise toward the program’s first Top 25 ranking, thanks to a program-best 16-game winning streak, the Wichita State women’s basketball has never been better.
All indications point toward the Shockers improving on their 8-0 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference on Sunday afternoon against bottom-dweller Evansville (7-12, 2-6 MVC).
Despite all of this, Wichita State’s reality outside of its conference does not stack up quite as favorably. The Valley is mired in its worst season as a whole in years, which leaves the Shockers, even with their impressive record, in a precarious position with the postseason.
“There’s no doubt that right now Wichita State would have a very hard time getting an at-large bid with the resume as it stands,” said Jim Sukup, the editor of rpiratings.com.
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That may come as a surprise to some for a team that is winning by an average of more than 20 points, but the Shockers’ current RPI rating of No. 63 is not as impressive.
WSU has played two games against Top 100 opponents in the RPI, which measures teams based on winning percentage, strength of schedule, and opponent’s strength of schedule, and has lost them both — against Oklahoma and Saint Joseph’s.
While the Shockers own wins over several teams hovering around that territory in Kansas State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Indiana State, and Arkansas State, their lack of quality wins have them looking from the outside in compared to others vying for at-large bids.
“Right now the safest way for Wichita State to make the tournament is to win the Valley conference tournament,” Sukup said. “They don’t even have to run the table because a loss won’t hurt them that much. The conference tournament is their primary goal right now.”
The Valley’s ineptitude in the non-conference — the eight other teams posted a 35-64 record in their non-conference slate — holds WSU back. Also not helping is that only three teams, including WSU, currently own winning records.
Of course, the Shockers can remove any uneasiness by winning the Valley tournament. But that also essentially negates what is shaping into a historic regular season.
If WSU were to go undefeated or even 17-1 in the Valley, yet lose in the conference tournament, would the NCAA’s really turn away a team with such a sterling record?
The answer, according to Sukup, is it’s possible.
“The biggest thing working against them is they’ve only played two games against Top 100 teams and lost them both,” he said. “But if they win the conference in the regular season, of course they’re going to get at least some consideration. It’s too early to say if that will be enough.”