Shockwaves

Wichita State gets benefit of doubt from AP basketball voters

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall enjoyed a 67-50 win over Utah in December.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall enjoyed a 67-50 win over Utah in December. The Wichita Eagle

The Associated Press basketball poll started in 1949 with Saint Louis (of the Missouri Valley Conference) ranked No. 1 in the first top 20.

Sportswriters created polls, I assume, to offer a way of comparing teams in the day before large numbers of TV games. Rankings created interest and debate, something the sport needed and newspapers enjoyed.

Are polls less necessary now? Yes. We see many games on TV. Then the best teams get together in March to play it off.

However, polls remain useful to give context to the season and create interest. Stick a number in front of a team and the casual fan might give the game a look.

No. 22 Wichita State returned to the national rankings after an eight-week absence. Fans love it.

Do the Shockers belong?

In a twist, they are probably benefiting from the eye test and brand-name recognition.

Their two wins against the top 100 of the CBSSports.com RPI are the fewest of the teams ranked 20-28. The 65 writers and broadcasters who vote (30 of whom didn’t rank WSU) are taking two things into consideration:

1. WSU is 12-1 since Fred VanVleet returned on Dec. 5, with the loss in overtime at Seton Hall.

2. Those voters have seen enough of WSU with VanVleet over the past two seasons that they are willing to grade WSU’s three losses without VanVleet (and Anton Grady for one) on a curve.

They penalized the Shockers for losing three in a row and four of six in November. In January, after winning nine straight and looking impressive doing it, the Shockers are back.

I can see where a fan of Oregon or Dayton might gripe.

WSU’s strongest cases are the win over Utah and an absence of bad losses. When voters get to the final few spots, that can be enough.

The lack of top-100 wins opens up room for doubt. So does the remaining schedule.

Normally, teams that win move up in the polls. WSU is scheduled to play one more top-100 team (No. 83 Evansville). No. 105 Indiana State and No. 107 Southern Illinois could move into the top 100. It will be interesting to see if the voters cap WSU for its lack of quality wins.

School

RPI rank

Record

Home record

Road record

Kenpom.com rank (offense) (defense)

Record vs. RPI 1-50

Record vs. RPI 51-100

Best RPI victory

Worst RPI defeat

Strength of schedule

No. 20 Kentucky

15

15-4

11-0

2-3

22 (29) (30)

2-1

3-3

No.18 Louisville

at No. 91 LSU

41

No. 21 Purdue

25

17-4

12-1

3-2

10 (38) (7)

3-3

3-0

No. 22 Florida

(neutral)

at

No. 104 Illinois

66

No. 22 Wichita State

41

14-5

8-0

5-2

15 (28) (17)

1-3

1-2

No. 17 Utah

No. 65 Alabama (neutral)

80

No. 23 Oregon

5

16-4

12-0

2-4

24 (15) (69)

8-2

1-1

at No. 16 Utah

at No. 117 UNLV

4

No. 24 Duke

27

15-6

10-2

3-2

20 (2) (148)

1-4

6-2

No. 40 Indiana

at No. 98 Clemson

19

No. 25 Notre Dame

34

14-5

10-1

3-1

28 (1) (227)

2-4

2-1

No. 7 Iowa (neutral)

No. 65 Alabama (neutral)

34

ORV Dayton

11

16-3

10-1

4-1

44 (100) (27)

4-2

5-0

No. 7 Iowa (neutral)

at No. 236 LaSalle

17

ORV South Carolina

28

17-2

9-0

3-2

46 (119) (24)

0-0

5-2

No. 56 Tulsa (neutral)

at No. 88 Tennessee

151

ORV Saint Mary’s

35

17-2

14-0

2-2

18 (3) (119)

2-1

2-0

No. 43 UC Irvine

at No. 108 Pepperdine

168

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