Shocker reader panel: 2018 is not too far off for excitement

1. Expectations should rise sky high for 2017-18. How high are yours?

Sara Orr Jones: There’s no ceiling for the Shockers next season. Because of the team’s solidarity, the depth, the ability to lock in, and the balanced skill set, I anticipate one of the highest winning seasons in our history. Looking forward to getting to know our new recruits and watching them gel.

Russell Lowden: I expect to be ranked in the top 10 or 15 in preseason polls. I expect us to win the Valley convincingly and to be ranked all year long. I expect to win St. Louis if we are there and hope to get a top 4 seed in the (NCAA) tournament.

Mike Burrus: I expect that we will be ranked in the top 20 all year, win the Maui Jim Maui Classic, win at least 30 games (including at least 16 in the MVC, as well as the post-season tournament), earn a No. 4-seed in the NCAA tournament, and advance to at least the Elite Eight.

Patty Beamer: The Shockers will be ranked preseason and will have to lose their way out of the top 25 (which won't happen). Maui will give the team plenty of opportunity to shine and I would love for them bring that tournament championship trophy (surfboard?) home.

Bryan Steele: I expect a conference regular season and tournament championship and at least one win in the NCAA Tournament. Assuming a reasonable seed (i.e. not a 10) I would expect a Sweet 16. The ceiling for this team is absolutely a national championship, but that will require at least a couple of lucky bounces and breaks.

2. What is your favorite memory from this season?

Sara Orr Jones: Senior Night was the most special. From beginning to end, our last home game for the conference season at Charles Koch Arena, a solid win against Evansville, and a bittersweet sendoff for our two graduating seniors, John Robert Simon and Zach Bush, all added up to an unforgettable evening that stirred much emotion and pride.

Bryan Steele: The 41-point revenge beat-down of Illinois State. The crowd was lit and ready to go from the tip and the more the score piled up the more fun it became. I was blown away that with at least 10 minutes left to play Dan Muller had essentially conceded defeat (maybe sooner than that).

It was complete and utter domination followed by a hilarious “teaching moment” timeout at the end of the game.

Patty Beamer: Winning the MVC Tournament in St. Louis. That has been my wish every year for the last five years.

Knowing the team was in the (NCAA) tournament was such a relief.

Right behind was J.R. Simon's senior night. I was so happy for both he and Zach (Bush), but J.R. let it fly with all the crowd and team behind him and went out in style.

Mike Burrus: My favorite memory is routing Illinois State at home – by an overwhelming margin of 41 points – to avenge our loss in Normal. The victory affirmed our role as THE dominant program in the Valley.

Joe Stroud: My favorite memory from this season would have to be the Oklahoma game at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.

Watching Shaquille Morris and J.R. Simon play in front of their hometown and family and friends was a wonderful experience. The explosive slam dunk from Daishon Smith, that was featured on (ESPN) Sports Center, really set the tone for our season.

3. Joining the American Athletic Conference seems to be a growing possibility for Wichita State. If offered a spot, should Wichita State accept?

Sara Orr Jones: Becoming part of the AAC has the promise of infusing a renewed excitement and challenge to play teams, for the most part, in major cities from the South and the Atlantic coast, with just a sprinkling from the Midwest. But, more importantly, it offers the opportunity for more exposure on a larger platform for Wichita State than the MVC provides.

Mike Burrus: No one in the general public has enough information to definitively answer that question. While I am 100 percent convinced that joining the AAC would be the right move for the men’s basketball team, I am not at all convinced that it would be the right move for the 12 other sports sponsored by the university, or for the university itself.

The decision to exit the MVC would be one with which the university (and its student-athletes and fans) would have to live for many, many years. I do hope that Dr. (John) Bardo goes beyond his current inner circle of advisors, and is consulting members of the community who have lived, eaten and breathed Wichita State University athletics for many decades (and not just men’s basketball) prior to making the final decision.

Men’s basketball would undoubtedly thrive in the AAC. Could the same be said with confidence regarding the other sports sponsored by WSU, as well as the overall athletic department?

Bryan Steele: Better competition is what this basketball program needs to be prepared for tight games in the NCAA Tournament, marquee conference opponents is what the fans want to see in Koch Arena, and universities that identify as urban research centers is what President Bardo wants to associate with. Not to mention much more enjoyable travel destinations for road games.

Russell Lowden: We need a change and that would certainly help us with getting better teams on the schedule. The travel would be difficult for many road games, but we would play Tulsa every year so that would be great. To play teams like Cincinnati, UConn, SMU, Memphis, Temple, etc. would be great games every year.

Joe Stroud: They would absolutely accept, not only would it provide better competition for all sports but it would offer more travel opportunities for fans to travel to two different locations for championship tournaments such as Houston and Orlando. This would also help the Basketball team tremendously with Scheduling, they would get more NCAA worthy teams such as Cincinnati and UConn, and plus we could continue our rivalry with Tulsa.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop