Wichita State Shockers

Around the American: Reporters evaluate Wichita State’s place in a new conference

Wichita State's Landry Shamet talks to reporters in the locker room in Indianapolis last month, a day before the Shockers met Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
Wichita State's Landry Shamet talks to reporters in the locker room in Indianapolis last month, a day before the Shockers met Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. The Wichita Eagle

College basketball reporters assess Wichita State’s move to the American Athletic Conference.

Kelly Hines, Tulsa World

It’s a no-brainer for both parties, especially in terms of basketball. The American needs to beef up its profile and Wichita State can benefit by joining an established multiple-bid league with high-reputation programs like Cincinnati, SMU, Memphis and UConn.

From Tulsa’s perspective, continuing its longest-running rivalry on a guaranteed annual basis adds an appeal for fans that simply doesn’t exist with other members of the league. Plus, Wichita State’s location balances the geography of a scattered conference, likely resulting in cities toward the west side of the league landing more events.

Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer

This is a double-edged sword for teams like Temple.

The AAC has been looking to get a stronger conference and that will help visibility, especially with program like Wichita State. But that will likely make it more difficult for teams like Temple to make the NCAA Tournament.

On the other hand, if Temple is to upset a team like Wichita State, it will help the Owls’ postseason profile. 

Even though the AAC got four NCAA teams in 2016, the league only got two in this year and there is the perception that the NCAA Tournament committee doesn’t think that highly of it.

That changes if Wichita State arrives. (What also needs to happen is for UConn to play like the UConn of old.)

I think the visibility factor is what will make all the AAC teams welcome Wichita State, but I don’t know anybody who will relish actually facing the Shockers. 

Mike DeCourcy, The Sporting News

They’ll be a very formidable opponent.

The problem I have with this move is that it’s based on short-term thinking. I point to the current state of Conference USA as an example of what Wichita State could be getting into. The (American), as it’s currently constituted, is a fine league, particularly when its top programs are playing better.

Wichita State, in the short-term, will be upgrading the level of its basketball competition. But we’re only six months removed from Memphis, Houston, Cincinnati and Connecticut doing everything they could, literally, to get out of the league.

Cincinnati and UConn and Memphis belong in the bigger leagues. Other than being inside (a power-five conference), there’s no dividing line between those programs and Pitt and Virginia Tech and Syracuse. They belong with them. At some point, there’s a good possibility they end up with them.

Jerry Palm, CBSsports.com

I think WSU is a good addition to the AAC.

It bolsters the quality of the league and, even though the MVC is one of the better non-majors, it gives Wichita State a level of competition that is stronger than what it normally faces in the MVC.

It will make the task of putting the kind of schedule needed to make the NCAA Tournament or get a better seed easier as well.

Dom Amore, Hartford Courant

It makes perfect sense for the American, which has Navy as a football-only member, on several levels.

It balances football and basketball, each with 12 members. For several schools it makes geographic sense.

Most important, it improves the strength and depth of the men’s basketball side. The schools perennially at the bottom of the conference seem stuck there, and are a drag on the RPI for the others. 

Wichita State gives the conference consistently a strong program, with some history of quality non-conference wins, that would make a good record in conference play more meaningful. It should result in more at-large bids for the conference.

Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

I think Wichita State is a great fit. It enhances the AAC’s inventory in basketball and gives the league an immediate Final Four threat. Wichita’s profile gets raised significantly and they avoid the glut of games that hurt their computer numbers.

To me, this feels like a marriage of mutual benefit. Both entities raise their relevancy and national juice.

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