Shocker readers panel: Grading the non-conference schedule, pick an MVC rival

A kick of WSU’s Tekele Cotton by Jackie Carmichael, left, was enough for some on our Shocker readers panel to list Illinois State as the easiest Valley team to hate.
A kick of WSU’s Tekele Cotton by Jackie Carmichael, left, was enough for some on our Shocker readers panel to list Illinois State as the easiest Valley team to hate. The Pantagraph

1.Give Wichita State's non-conference performance a letter grade and show your work.

Patty Beamer: Offense: B+

Defense: A

Free throws: B

Play in Big Games: C+ (OU, OSU, MSU, UL)

Play in all Other games: A

Leadership: B

Hustle and Battle for Rebounds: B

Overall letter grade: B+ I came up with a B+ because in some areas the team has played very good, but once Daishon (Smith) knows the plays and teammates are where they're supposed to be, play will smooth out and become more like clockwork. Rebounding will improve, shots near the basket will be made (bunnies) and hustle will be much more apparent. I just don't feel like the team has gelled yet, but they will and by the end of the season, the team will be an A+!

Bryan Steele: B - they did well, dominating lesser opponents and winning some quality road games at Colorado State and Oklahoma. However, they missed other opportunities in the Bahamas (Louisville, Michigan State) and against Oklahoma State. And at times in those games they looked overwhelmed and rushed. This is somewhat to be expected with an inexperienced squad, but the potential and talent is very high if they can develop the consistency and toughness that Gregg Marshall requires.

David Gonzalez: B-

And that’s pretty good for a team that’s creating its own unique identity with a handful of newcomers and a new starting lineup. While missed opportunities against Louisville, Michigan State, and Oklahoma State didn’t solidify their at-large consideration, this team was dominant when it needed to be and avoided bad losses on their resume. In the end, I’m not sure many predicted the Shockers would be10-3 in the non-conference after losing Ron (Baker) and Fred (VanVleet).

Sasha Bouska: I'd give the Shockers a C for their non-conference performance. They didn't do anything to kill themselves moving forward, but there wasn't much to write home about, either. They won the games they were supposed to, but I would say the five most important games were at Colorado State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the last two games in the Bahamas. They only managed to win two of those.

Ty Houseman: B. No bad losses but the lack of a high quality win leaves little room for error in conference play.

Mike Burrus: I’d assign our non-conference performance as a solid B. There were (and continue to be) lots of moving parts for Coach Marshall to put together in order for the team to perform at the level that Coach and all true Shocker fans have come to expect. A 10-3 record, with all three losses being to big-name programs who will definitely be NCAA Tournament teams, is certainly as good as we could have reasonably projected. The LSU, OU and Colorado State wins might even help to improve our RPI as their respective conference seasons unfold.

2. Which Missouri Valley Conference team do you love to hate? Does any team come close to provoking the emotions of a Creighton game?

Sara Orr Jones: No MVC team that comes into the Roundhouse, beats the Shockers on our home court, and snaps a 43-game winning streak can't expect to garner any warm and fuzzy feelings. Enough said about the UNI Panthers.

Bryan Steele: Can I still answer Creighton? Nothing else even comes close. At best, UNI and Illinois State feel like that little brother who is crowing about that one time they finally beat you in H.O.R.S.E. Although at least UNI has done something useful in the NCAA tournament lately. Creighton was a great rival.

Joe Stroud: Northern Iowa is a team I love to hate in the Valley. Ben Jacobson does a fantastic job of coaching and recruiting for the Panthers and you always have a Koch brother to deal with. For the team that provokes emotion like Creighton, I would have to say Illinois State would be my choice, Both teams do not like each other, it is always highly competitive and a defensive battle, and some amazing games have come out of it. Just like in 2013, when Wichita State came back from an 11-point deficit to win with 0.8 seconds left on a Cleanthony Early three-pointer.

David Gonzalez: No MVC team will ever provoke the emotions of a Creighton game, but Illinois State is definitely the current team I love to hate. It all started in 2013 with Jackie Carmichael’s kick to Tekele Cotton’s chest. Since then, there’s been little love for the Redbirds. On the positive side, it’s always a good game to look forward to.

Loren Honse: I don't think anyone can replace the “love to hate” feeling that Creighton had, but a close second is UNI and that's only because the past few years they had a really good team and Ben Jacobson is a phenomenal coach which always catches WSU off guard.

Ty Houseman: Illinois State! I hated Creighton when they were in the Valley, but always had respect for their teams and program. I just can't stand anything about the Redbirds.

Mike Burrus: The only team about which I have strong negative feelings is Illinois State, stemming from the Carmichael kicking incident, and from comments/voting from Coach Muller over the years which have the effect of playing down the quality of our players’ abilities and our programs. There are no Valley teams that I love, but I will always positive feelings for any team coached by Barry Hinson.

3. According to Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports, sources in the American Athletic Conference are discussing Wichita State as a potential member. What is your view on that conference as a home for all Shocker sports?

Patty Beamer: I am of the thought, grow where you are planted. I would feel different about men’s basketball, if we had won in St Louis 20 out of the last 25 years, but to win ONCE in 25 years is just crazy! I will follow the team regardless of conference and am really indifferent. I would hope a change in conference is in the best interest of all sports.

Bryan Steele: I would take the AAC in a heartbeat. Similar institutions (urban research), old Valley rivals (Tulsa, Cincinnati), better locations for travel, quality baseball, opportunities for good wins in basketball conference play, high profile media markets. WSU cannot be afraid of instability. Conferences have changed and reformed for many years, and the only reason the Valley has been stable lately is due to its mediocrity. Louisville made risky conference changes in the past and now they find themselves in the ACC. It's not possible to know where the road ends, so the university just has to take that first step with courage.

David Gonzalez: In terms of athletics only, almost anything outside of the MVC would be an upgrade so I’m all for this move! The AAC would provide higher quality opponents that would benefit the Shockers on all levels. Focusing on basketball, a bad loss in the AAC doesn’t compare to a bad loss in the MVC. And even in terms of women’s basketball, this would be a quantum leap in the right direction. Another benefit would be to the fan base with schools such as Tulsa, SMU, and Houston within good driving distance. Games at home against UConn and Cincinnati would make for good environments as well. All in all, I don’t see how this move would hurt Shocker athletics.

Sasha Bouska: I think the AAC would be an upgrade for WSU. It would give them an opportunity to have marquee games throughout the regular season and not have to rely so heavily on the non-conference or posting a ridiculous record in the league. As far as the other sports go, with the divisional setup that a 12-team league would have, there are enough schools in the AAC close to Wichita to make it feasible.

Loren Honse: That is a poor decision on all accounts. All of those teams applied for the Big 12 which says that no one team wanted to stay in that conference and there is no foreseeable benefit by leaving the MVC. We have great enough competition here and we are still good enough for the NCAA Tournament.

Ty Houseman: As it stands now it would be a great move. My only concern, with all the conference realignment, would be losing good teams out of that conference and being no better off or even worse.

Mike Burrus: IF we decide to switch conferences for all sports, I think the AAC is a feasible option. However, my preference would be that all Shocker sports remain in The Valley for the foreseeable future. From a men’s basketball standpoint, I prefer following “the Gonzaga model” for now – dominating the conference for an extended number of years, and building an at-large resume by playing the best non-conference schedule possible. We are WELL ON OUR WAY to successfully using the Gonzaga model to our benefit, though I’m not ready to concede that we are dominating our conference until we are able to win the post-season conference tournament with regularity.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop