The continuing debate on whether Wichita State should be a No. 1 seed is trivial regardless of what happens this week during Arch Madness, otherwise known as the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
One can make an argument that if the Shockers stroll through their league tourney as expected, they should be rewarded with the top seed overall. At 31-0 they are the only team with a flawless regular season record, which has happened only twice since 1991. Perfection should be rewarded, not debated. Call it compensation for excellence.
“We’ve gone 31 up and 31 down against some really good teams, really good players, really good coaches,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “I think we deserve that but I don’t have to worry that. I just have to worry about playing the games and hopefully we can win and advance. If we don’t then we’ll be in the NCAAs regardless. Last year, we went to the Final Four as a nine seed.”
One of the teams the Shockers knocked off on their way to the Final Four was No. 1 seeded Gonzaga, where current Drake coach Ray Giacoletti was an assistant. A closer look at the Shockers leaves Giacoletti even more impressed.
“I think they’re much better now than they were a year ago,” Giacoletti said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to get back to the Final Four but going 31-0 is an incredible feat. … This is a different team. This is one of the best teams in the country, hands down.”
The Shockers have been building toward this kind of season for some time. They won the NIT title in 2011, earned an NCAA fifth seed in 2012 before the Final Four run a year ago. That kind of consistency happens only with good players.
“The way you go 31-0 is to have a healthy respect for your opponent, and you know if you don’t play well against them you can lose,” Marshall said. “Every team you play has a coach who’s paid to win and players – hopefully 13 full scholarship guys – that want to win when that ball is tossed. This team has done a great job of understanding that.”
They are merciless defensively and have been outrebounded only 13 times in their last 100 games.
“This is a complete team,” Giacoletti said. “This is a team that takes care of every piece of the game to be successful. One word to describe them would be toughness. Toughness defensively, toughness rebounding the basketball, and I’m very impressed with them offensively because they don’t panic. Even with five seconds on the shot clock they’re going to get a great shot.”
They’re also incredibly unselfish. Sophomore Fred VanVleet, the team’s third-leading scorer, took only one shot on Senior Night so the seniors could shine. On Monday, Marshall was asked by Sports Illustrated to select one player from his team to be pictured on the cover for an upcoming issue. The coach told VanVleet, Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton to draw straws, with the one with the smallest piece getting the cover. The drawing never took place.
“I think it should be Tekele,” Early said. “The rest of us get more hype.”
Meanwhile, Marshall seems unperturbed. While the majority of his peers are concerned with seedings and survival, Marshall was shopping with his wife at a high-end grocery store during a conference call on Tuesday.
“I’ve never been in places like this,” he said.
Cooney goes cold
Syracuse needs Trevor Cooney to relocate his shooting touch or the reeling Orange could get bounced early from the NCAAs. Since hitting nine threes in a home win over Notre Dame on Feb. 3, Cooney has been especially hideous from long distance, shooting a combined 14 of 56, including 1 for 8 in a loss to Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
During a practice session last week leading up to the Virginia game, Orange assistant Gerry McNamara encouraged Cooney to drive to the basket more and not rely so much on the jumper. Still, Cooney’s shooting miseries continue.
“He’s either shooting the three or driving to the basket, he needs to have something else in there,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said after the Georgia Tech loss. We’re looking for him and they’re trying to get him open. He was making those shots earlier — there’s no question about that — and I think he can make them. We’re going to keep trying to get him 8 to 10 shots a game.”
Note to Self
While Kansas’ stretch of 10 consecutive Big 12 championships should be applauded, basically it comes down to recruiting. It is worth taking a quick glance at Kansas’ recruiting hauls over the last five seasons. Rivals.com ranked the Jayhawks in the top 10 classes three times. The only other Big 12 teams ranked in the top 10 were Baylor in 2012 (sixth) and Texas in 2011 (eighth). No wonder Bill Self has won a conference title three times after replacing his entire starting five.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is way off base on his claim that the D League is a better option than college in preparing for the NBA. The Erie Bayhawks, for example, are coached by Gene Cross, who went 11-53 in two seasons as head coach of the Rockets. If I’m Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins I’m going to learn more about the NBA playing for someone like Cross than Coach K or Self? I think not.