The Norman Transcript

Sports

February 4, 2014

Test time for the Shockers

(Continued)

WICHITA, Kan. —

Wichita State has only one victory against a current Top 25 team, beating No. 13 Saint Louis before the Billikens were ranked. Otherwise, the Shockers have been pounding away on a schedule that offers very few chances to pick up marquee victories.

It’s not entirely the Shockers’ fault, of course. Marshall has found it increasingly tough to schedule games against high-profile opponents after their run to last year’s Final Four — many of those teams don’t want to risk losing to a so-called “mid-major” program.

Then there’s the fact that the Missouri Valley has weakened considerably this season.

Creighton proved to be the Shockers’ toughest rival, but they moved to the Big East and left few contenders for conference superiority. The Sycamores (17-5, 8-2) may be the closest thing, but even they were routed by Wichita State 68-48 when they met Jan. 18.

The Shockers beat the Panthers 67-53 in their first meeting this season.

“It’s something a lot of people have talked about, and I think we’re excited about it,” forward Ron Baker said of the two-game trip. “We’ll be prepared just like we always are. No games are a given on the road. It’s going to be hostile and we’re looking forward to it.”

Even with a weak schedule, Wichita state is still firmly in the top 10 of the RPI, a key factor when the NCAA selection committee begins to seed teams. But their schedule also means that any slip along the way would likely dash the Shockers’ chances of earning a No. 1 seed.

It would help if they continued to dominate their opponents.

The Shockers are the only team in the nation to lead their conference in scoring offense and defense. They also lead the league in scoring margin, offensive and defensive rebounding, turnover margin, rebounding margin, blocked shots and, well, just about every other statistic.

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