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Can Wichita State Go Undeafeated?

Every single March, Cinderella stories take over the college basketball landscape. Last season, we
Cleanthony Early
had two, when 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast stunned the nation on their way to the Sweet 16 and when the 8 seed Wichita made a Final Four run. It is rare for these Cinderella teams to live up to the new expectations placed on them after a deep run. Some of the most famous Cinderella teams have disappeared since their runs. Teams like George Mason, Butler and others have been pretty average since their infamous deep tournament runs. But, it appears Wichita is a program that is here to stay. Just a couple months after their NCAA run, the Shockers are dominating the Missouri Valley, sitting at 20-0 and 7-0 inside the conference. With no big threats remaining on their schedule it is a realistic thing to wonder, can Wichita State go undefeated?

People will think the only reason that Wichita is undefeated is because of their weak schedule. While they haven't seen the schedule of some of the other Top 10 teams they still have a number of quality wins. The Shockers beat a tough St. Louis team in early December, and have big wins over two SEC opponents in Alabama and Tennessee. Inside the Valley, they dominated 15-4 Indiana State, their toughest opponent inside the conference. Much of their success this season can be credited to the play of sophomore guard/forward Ron Baker, who is averaging 13 points per game and is shooting 43% from the field. Along with the inside-outside combination of sophomore Fred Van Fleet at point guard and forward Cleanthony Early, the Shockers have a frontline that has the talent to make it consecutive Final Four trips. Wichita still plays Indiana State one more time on the road and they should be careful against Missouri State on March 1st. Missouri State played their best basketball of the season and forced the Shockers into OT. Neither of those look like teams that can end Wichita's perfect season.

Wichita is an extremely tough, disciplined team that won't lose games to teams they shouldn't. They really shouldn't lose another game this season, but going undefeated in the regular season of college basketball is so difficult. The season is 30+ games long and any team can have an off day. If Wichita can get through their regular season untouched their is still the fact that they have to go through the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament before the NCAA tournament even begins. The last college basketball team to go undefeated? Indiana, which went 32-0 in 1975-1976, before the tournament expanded to 64 teams in '85. Even with Early, Baker, Van Fleet and a pretty deep bench it seems like it will be difficult to get through the season without a single loss. Even if that happens, the NCAA tournament should have a number of teams that can knock Wichita down. Wichita is a great team, and they have a better chance of going undefeated and Arizona or Syracuse (the other two flawless teams in the nation) but their loss column will have at least one before things wrap in early April.

Where Will Their First Loss Come? Possible Losses:
Feb. 5th vs. Indiana State
The Sycamores are having their best year since the days of Larry Bird thanks in large part to the play of senior guard Jake Odum, who is leading the team in points, assists and rebounds. It will be an extremely tough road test for the Shockers.
Mar. 1st vs. Missouri State
Wichita needed a furious comeback to survive their first meeting with Missouri State and they could be looking too far ahead and look past this one. Stopping sophomore Marcus Marshall, who is averaging 14.3 points and 2.1 assists a game will be top priority for Wichita.
Missouri Valley Tournament
This may be the most logical time for the Shockers' undefeated year to come to an end. Teams play their hardest in conference tournaments, especially in smaller conferences as they try to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. Plus, Wichita will not have the comfort of facing any of these upset-minded teams at home.

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