Highlights of the week ahead:
▪ Wichita State’s men’s team plays Nevada (8-3) on Tuesday (7 p.m., Cox Kansas, KEYN 103.7-FM) at Koch Arena.
The Wolf Pack could be without forward Tyron Criswell, who sprained his left MCL and left Saturday’s game on crutches. He told a Nevada TV station he might play against WSU. He averages 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds.
▪ WSU’s women’s team will attempt to extend its two-game win streak at Tennessee Tech on Tuesday (6 p.m., KNSS 1330-AM). Tennessee Tech (3-8) has lost three in a row and six of seven.
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▪ The Shockers (5-5) lost 80-76 at Seton Hall in overtime Saturday, missing a chance to grab what could be a helpful win for NCAA consideration. WSU needs Seton Hall to be for real, that’s for sure.
My position on an at-large spot is this: Should the Shockers show up on March 13 at 25-8 (24-8 with NCAA Division I wins), they are in, assuming mostly the right combination of 20 more wins and three more losses.
Last season, Dayton was the final at-large team selected with a 25-8 record, an RPI ranked No. 32, a strength of schedule ranked No. 113, a non-conference SOS of No. 161 and a 1-3 record vs. the top 50.
UCLA, a team that surprised many with its inclusion as an at-large pick, got in at 20-10, No. 49 RPI, No. 29 SOS, No. 59 non-conference SOS and 2-8 vs. top 50.
WSU, as of now, is 5-5, No. 71 RPI, No. 11 strength of schedule, No. 12 non-conference SOS and 1-4 vs. top 50.
The biggest issue is that Northern Iowa is the only remaining top-50 opponent, with Evansville in shouting distance of the top 50 at No. 88. The other big issue is that Loyola, Drake and Bradley all represent serious RPI drains and Missouri State, Indiana State and Illinois State aren’t much better.
WSU must sweep those teams to avoid what I would think is a loss that would damage their “We’re a worthy team when healthy” case.
The Shockers have work to do, no doubt. Of course, it’s not much different than most years in the MVC. While the 2013 Shockers got in the NCAA Tournament with a 12-6 MVC record, the margin is much slimmer than that most seasons as a Valley member.
▪ WSU women’s team (3-7) lost to Eastern Washington 67-62 and defeated Prairie View A&M 64-36 and North Carolina A&T 55-53, all at Koch Arena last week.
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Around the MVC
Northern Iowa brightened the mood with its win over No. 5 Iowa State on Saturday. The Panthers can get some more this week at the Diamond Head Classic, starting with Hawaii on Wednesday and either Oklahoma (good) or Washington State (bad).
Winning at Hawaii is a chore, as WSU can attest. The Panthers can set themselves up for a good week with that game.
The field also includes Auburn, New Mexico, BYU and Harvard.
The rest of the MVC is done with quality non-conference opponents.
MVC play starts on Dec. 30.
Monday’s reading recommendation:
Mike DeCourcy: You will find no shortage of opinions that Monmouth’s only avenue into the NCAAs will be through the automatic bid awarded to the MAAC Tournament champion. It is an easy call to make, given that the MAAC has received an at-large bid only twice in its history, and that it is rare for bids to be earned by teams whose conferences are ranked in the bottom half of the conference RPI standings. (The MAAC currently is 20th).