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NCAAB: Wichita State Surprising the Missouri Valley

The Wichita State Shockers were considered to be in a rebuilding season, but the team has shocked the rest of the Missouri Valley and is starting to get the attention of teams, coaches and players around the nation. The Shockers have played well to start the NCAA basketball season and going back to last season are 21-3 in their past 24 road games.

Wichita has started out of the gate quicker than anyone, possibly even their coach, thought they would or could. The Shockers, after beating Air Force on the road, were 8-0 on the season. The Shockers have yet to play a conference game but lead Creighton by a game overall and Southern Illinois by 2 ½. Every other team in the conference has lost at least two games overall.

Creighton was picked by nearly every sports writer to be the Missouri Valley Champion when star Doug McDermott said he would return to play in his junior season. However, last week Creighton was surprised by Boise State at home, but they still are the team to beat in the conference.

At this point, it would seem that Creighton was not going to run away with the title as some had previously thought. That is due to what other teams, mostly Wichita State, have been doing in the first month of the season.

Illinois State will also be in contention as they received the only other first place votes in a preseason poll besides Creighton. They have played very strong basketball and nearly defeated Louisville. Illinois State is lead by Tyler Brown and Jackie Carmichael who is a prospect to play in the NBA.

However, it is Wichita State, picked fourth in the same preseason poll, which have provided the conference’s biggest shock. The Shockers won the conference regular season championship last season, but lost the top five scorers on the team and were expected to just rebuild this season.

It appears that is not the case as Wichita State looks like it just reloaded as in their last three games they have defeated VCU, Iowa and Air Force. Now it appears the conference will have a three and possibly four way horse race for the title. Thoughts return to the 2005-2006 season when the conference sent four representatives to the NCAA tournament.

Wichita appears to be a tough defensive team that has become better and better in its first 8 games of the season. The Shockers are lacking the size they had last season because of Garrett Stutz their 7-footer leaving for graduation. However, the team is more athletic and has a solid frontcourt that scores when they have to. The team has gelled as a unit much quicker than expected and are playing as a team.

The coaching staff likes to recruit junior college transfers as is evidenced by Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early, both junior college players who are leading the team in scoring. Malcolm Armstead the point guard for the team is also a senior transfer, but he came from Oregon. There are two other jucos in the lineup and two freshmen and that has made for six new faces in the team’s rotation.

Head Coach Gregg Marshall says the season will be long as they have an 18-game conference schedule that will take its toll, as there are teams like Southern Illinois and Bradley who have been on the bottom of the pile, but are working their way back up.

The Missouri Valley Conference and the Ivy League are the only two conferences that have not seen any realignment since 1995. That familiarity with teams, coaches and two games against each team makes for rivalries and touch matchups.

What everyone thought early on is not the case. The Shockers are not rebuilding, they are loaded and ready to roll.

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