Highlights of the week ahead:
▪ The AP top 25 comes out around noon. Wichita State has a good chance to return.
The Shockers are 1-3 against the top 50 and 2-5 against the top 100 in the CBSSports.com RPI. Their best win is over No. 17 Utah. A non-conference strength of schedule ranked No. 4 and WSU’s play with Fred VanVleet in the lineup is likely proof enough for most voters that it is deserving.
▪ With an average margin of victory of 20.5 points in MVC games, there isn’t much question who the MVC’s best team is. The question is — can WSU go 18-0?
By Sunday, we will know if it is time to charge up that bandwagon.
The Shockers play Loyola (9-11, 2-6) on Wednesday (8 p.m., CBS Sports Network). On Sunday (3 p.m., ESPNU), they play at third-place Evansville (17-4, 6-2). Kenpom.com gives WSU a 57-percent chance to win, the only remaining game under 70 percent.
The trip to Indiana State offers a chance of peril, especially if the Sycamores can dial up an effort similar to Sunday’s 82-65 rout of Evansville. Southern Illinois keeps winning, so its Feb. 3 visit to Koch Arena is interesting.
Even if you like to be cautious, WSU’s treatment of the MVC the past two seasons means another 18-0 run is very much on the table, if it can handle Evansville on Sunday.
▪ WSU women’s team plays Missouri State (13-7, 6-2) on Saturday (2 p.m. Cox 22) at Koch Arena. The Shockers (5-14, 2-6) are on a two-game win streak. How capable are they of moving into the middle of the MVC? Beating second-place MSU would show something.
WSU owns an eight-game win streak over the Bears.
▪ WSU’s baseball’s First Pitch Banquet is Feb. 4 at Koch Arena. Jim Morris, inspiration for “The Rookie” will speak. You can buy tickets here.
▪ WSU’s women’s team needed wins desperately and got them over Southern Illinois (57-48) and Evansville (58-50). Freshman Rangie Bessard averaged 17.5 points and nine rebounds.
Bessard is one spot ahead of Drake freshman Sara Rhine in scoring (15.0-14.9) and rebounding (8.8-8.6) in conference games. The MVC’s Freshman of the Year race appears to be between those two. No other rookie averages in double figures in MVC play.
▪ WSU’s men won at Northern Iowa (74-55) and defeated Bradley (88-54). The Shockers (14-5, 8-0 MVC) are on a nine-game win streak, moving up to No. 41 in the RPI and No. 16 in kenpom.com.
▪ WSU’s tennis teams played in the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The women’s team defeated Minnesota before losing to No. 10 Texas A&M 4-3 on Sunday in College Station, Texas. The men’s team lost to No. 9 Ohio State 4-0 and defeated South Carolina 4-2 on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
Around the Valley
Indiana State sophomore Brenton Scott might be the most entertaining player to watch in the MVC. He is unpredictable with his shot-taking and enough of them go in to make it fun. He made 6 of 9 shots to score 24 points in Sunday’s 82-65 win over Evansville at Hulman Center.
The Sycamores (11-9, 5-3) are done with games at WSU, SIU and Evansville, so they can realistically look forward to a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
Monday’s reading recommendation
The Coloradoan: In the second half, it hit Green. Like it did Omogbo. Finally. It was inevitable, really. We watched from Section 16, Row G, Seat 3 when Omogbo didn’t get a foul called his way under the basket, started arguing and was pulled from the game. He sat on the bench and complained to teammate Kimani Jackson, then Prentiss Nixon, then his coaches. It was emotion. Finally.