The nets came down in Wichita on Saturday night. One snip at a time, the Shocker players walked away with their personal strings.
But this is only one quarter of the goal complete. There is still Arch Madness, and if things go well, then another Regional championship and finally the big one.
One down, three to go.
The boys in gold walked away with an 83-54 win over Drake in a game that ended when Wichita State held the Bulldogs without a field goal for almost 13 minutes spanning from the first half into the second.
This was vintage Shocker basketball, driven by tough defense, and a truckload of want at both ends of the floor.
Wichita State created 20 turnovers by Drake and then just ran them out of the gym.
Wichita State held the Bulldogs to just seven offensive rebounds, and almost half of those came in the final few minutes when the game was long over. It was a tick above what the Shockers normally allow their opponents to do on the glass. But the Shockers are also one of the stingiest teams in the country. If they were judged just on this performance, they would still be No. 14 in the country at this skill. As it is, they are No. 5.
Wichita State did all of this while only getting 17 minutes and three points from Cleanthony Early. Wichita State did all of this while getting just six points from Ron Baker. Evan Wessel scored that many.
They spread the love tonight, with Tekele Cotton, the defensive specialist who had an astonishing seven steals, scoring 21 points. Darius Carter came off the bench and scored 15 including a couple of rim-shaking dunks, and then shot four balls out of the air with stunning blocks.
And then Fred Van Vleet got his, with 15 points, six assists, three steals and five rebounds for good measure.
28-0, Good Genes and More Than Special
They come from far and wide to see this team, the team that dares to defy logic and continues to win no matter the opponent. They come to see this special team ... no, wait, give me a word more than special. That is what is in this team's DNA.
They didn't need two legs of the tripod tonight, and they still destroyed the team on the other bench. Beware everyone; 29-0 doesn't look like it will be the end of this.
For the second straight game, the Shockers looked like they were back to normal, as if some weight that bogged them down for most of February had been lifted from their shoulders. They were back to running their game their way, and yes, running is the appropriate word for this.
Wichita State just seems to play in another gear against their opponents, no matter the name on the other jersey.
Take a sequence early in the second half where Carter turned and shot over Seth VanDeest. The shot missed and came back at the two big men. But before VanDeest could move toward the ball it was past him, and right to where Carter waited for it.
He deked VanDeest and put in the second attempt, while also drawing the foul. He made the free throw -- through the net that would eventually find its way into the hands of the Shocker players.
Wichita State is just to every spot on the floor a split second before the other team can react. It doesn't look like they run other teams out of the gym. They are just made of a bundle of all fast-twitch muscles which fire faster than should be humanly possible.
That is training, that is preparation, that is Wichita State basketball right now. And this is great basketball.
It is the kind of basketball that will be bringing more nets down, after the Shocker players beat them up by snapping the strings more times than should be legal. Buckle up, this ride isn't over.