At this point in the season, Wichita State has a very respectable record of 15-3 and 6-1 in Valley play. The Shockers have an RPI of 32, based on Warren Nolan’s RPI website (all rpi data further referenced in the article is from Warren Nolan). Out of the three losses on the year, all three come from teams with an RPI of 25 or higher. Alabama’s RPI is 22, Temple’s is 25, and Creighton’s is 20. There hasn’t been a year since 2006 when Wichita State’s résumé looked more impressive than it does right now to the selection committee.
You could pick out any of the three losses, and say that if you turn that into a win, we’re right with Creighton in the top 25, but if you take the Creighton loss and turn it into a win, I would say that Wichita State is ranked higher than Creighton is at this time. At least it would seem that way, in my alternative fantasy sports world. I say this because of a couple points. Mainly, if WSU beats Creighton on New Year’s Eve, at this time, WSU would have a 14 game win-streak. Not as important but still slightly, you have to look at the fact that Creighton is ranked, despite losing at home to Missouri State. I feel confident in saying that if WSU wins that game, The Shox are in the top 20. The point being made here is that one game can change the entire landscape of a season, and that especially holds true when talking about The MVC, and if there ever was a test, its the upcoming part of the schedule.
An important stretch of play is coming up for Wichita State. The biggest hurdle in this stretch of basketball will be to win at UNI on Wednesday. Currently UNI has an RPI of 30, and a win on the road for The Shox would give them a boost to possibly breakthrough the Top 25 bubble, and if not, will push WSU to the very edge of that bubble. The UNI game has another level of importance as well. That importance is that both UNI and Wichita State are away teams for this year’s Bracketbuster. Whichever team wins this game, will most likely have the highest or 2nd highest RPI (Saint Mary’s might have a higher RPI at that time) of any away team and will likely get the highest ranked home team.
Lets get back to The Shocker’s MVC schedule though. After UNI, Wichita State faces SIU and Evansville at home, and then travels to Drake to finish out January on the calendar. Finishing out January is a big key to WSU because at the end of January, the selection committee that picks the match ups for Bracketbusters meets to make the selections. If Wichita State can win out, and assuming the home teams win out as well, WSU should look to play a very solid team that will help The Shockers make their case to make it as an at-large to March Madness. The top four RPI ratings for home teams are as follows: #10 Murray State, Iona, Oral Roberts & Davidson (Creighton has the highest RPI, but we won’t play them in Bracketbusters).
To start February, Wichita State will play hands-down the toughest stretch of their schedule. It is absolutely brutal. The Shox start it off on the road at Missouri State, then host Indiana State at home, then UNI at home, travel to Creighton, and then host Missouri State at home. Wait for it though, because the cherry on top of that brutal cake is that it is wrapped up with the away game at WSU’s Bracketbuster opponent. After all that is over, The Shox play at Illinois State, and then host Drake at home to wrap it up before Arch Madness in St. Louis. I’m ready to see how the rest of this season plays out. It looks to be a wild ride.