The fall from the top has been as sudden and as hard as many outsiders speculated it would be this season for the Wichita State women’s basketball team.
Jody Adams led the Shockers to an unprecedented run of three straight NCAA Tournaments, but not even she could find a way to overcome the inexperience and injuries her team faced this season.
But rebuilding is an Adams specialty. She’s already done it once at Wichita State and did the same as an assistant at Minnesota and Southern Illinois. This is just the latest challenge, as Wichita State (7-20, 4-12 Missouri Valley) is in the midst of its first 20-loss season since Jane Albright’s final team lost 22 games eight years ago.
Wichita State returns home to Koch Arena on Thursday night to face Illinois State.
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“It’s hard for a coach as competitive as I am, but you do have to be realistic and I sincerely take this as an opportunity to learn,” Adams said. “Twenty losses? That’s 20 times I get to teach more than any other coach.”
No one expected Wichita State to retain its championship-level of play this season when it had to replace all five of its starters and transition seven players to the Division I level. But a fall this far from the top has been unlike anything Wichita State has gone through, only because it has never won like that before.
The Shockers are locked into a bottom-four finish in the Valley for the first time since Adams’ first year on the job and have now lost more conference games this season (12) than they did during their three-year reign atop the Missouri Valley (eight).
While Wichita State has shown glimpses this season of being competitive, consistency has escaped the team.
“I love taking on opportunities and I love learning, but as much as I want to study it, and crunch it, and figure it out, I know some things just take time,” Adams said. “It’s going to take time and it’s going to take maturity. I can’t speed experience up.”
Adams still feels like Wichita State can present a matchup problem for teams in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament next week, but admits the Shockers are often overmatched against veteran teams that push the pace.
The future is an exciting one for Wichita State with every player slated to come back next season, but Adams hopes this year still has a surprise or two left in it.
“I still want these guys to be proud of their work,” Adams said. “Even though we ran out of time, we’re going to continue to work and continue to get better. I hope they’ve seen the glimpses of just how great they can be as a team and they carry that with them.”
ILLINOIS ST. AT WSU women
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Koch Arena
Records: ISU 7-20, 5-11 MVC; WSU 7-20, 4-12