There are very few people who think that Wichita State are the best team in college basketball, but it doesn’t matter as their 30-0 record since the start of the 2013-2014 season is a first and will go down in history as a remarkable achievement, no matter how they fare in the NCAA tournament.
Wichita State are now 17-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference and 30-0 for the season after a 69-49 win over Bradley, leaving them only one more game to finish the regular season in perfection, playing Missouri State on March 1. They’ve ensured their conference title (second in three years), which shouldn’t be that surprising considering they did make the Final Four last season.
They aren’t the first team to get to 30-0, but they are the first to get there in the regular season. In the last 40 seasons, only four other schools (Indiana twice, Indiana State, Rutgers, UNLV) won their first 30 games as well, the last of them being the Rebels in the 1990-1991 season.
Can they stay perfect from Arch Madness? Last season Wichita State lost to Creighton and Doug McDermott in the final. They haven’t won the tournament since 1987, and they’ve been to the title game only twice since 1991. However, this season isn’t just an accident. They might not be up there with the teams from the major conferences in terms of ability and quality, but there’s a reason they’ve gone perfect in the MVC, winning almost all of their games by double digits.
If they do finish the tournament with the league-conference double, history tells us to get ready for another deep run from the Shockers. They are only the sixth team in College Basketball history to reach the Final Four and go 30-0 through their first 30 games of the next season. Each of the previous five teams made it back to the Final Four, and UCLA teams under John Wooden also won the national title.
Some might say that Wichita State’s achievement isn’t that special: We’re simply playing more regular season games now than before, that’s the only difference. But even in a weaker conference, diluted by realignment, having a perfect year is something that rarely come by. Gonzaga have been dominating in the Northwest for years and they still haven’t achieved that, and the same goes for other mid-majors around the nation.
It’s not an indication of how well they’ll do in the NCAA tournament, but it doesn’t take away from the very special achievement Gregg Marshall and his players accomplished, but it’ll be remembered by more than just the stat pages if they make a deep run through March and April.