34-0, which is all that needs to be said.
The Wichita State Shockers have done it. They will go into the NCAA Tournament undefeated after winning the Missouri Valley Conference championship on Sunday against Indiana State, 83-69. They are the first team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since the 1990-91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. This was their first conference championship since 1987.
The Shockers will likely return to St. Louis for the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 Seed. If there are still any haters or doubters, Wichita State deserves that No.1 Seed and showed why on Sunday with their balanced attack, lock down defensive and their well-executed game plan. They are playing their best basketball now and that is a testament to their head Coach Gregg Marshall and his players. Arguably, the only team that could be playing better right now is the Florida Gators.
Still, the Shockers had a goal this season to win the MVC Tournament and they did that on Sunday.
Wichita State started this game playing to one of their strengths this season and that is 3-point shooting. Forward Cleanthony Early started the barrage of 3-pointers early in the first half. He stepped back and nailed the shot to give the Shockers some early momentum. Tekele Cotton also knocked down an early 3-pointer, but the Sycamores kept it close in the opening minutes of this game.
After losing twice to the Shockers in the regular season, Indiana State wanted to prove that they to go toe-to-toe with the Shockers. Justin Gant made some early buckets to keep the Sycamores in this game. He stepped up big after ISU star Jake Odum was having some issues getting to the bucket. Odum, in his final collegiate game, ended up with 8 points. After a flagrant foul by ISU’s Devonte Brown, the Shockers sparked a run, which they have been doing all tournament long.
Ron Baker started a 10-0 run for the Shockers that gave them a double-digit lead. The Shockers have been going on runs about halfway in the first half throughout their MVC Tournament games. They dealt with some early adversity, but found a way to attack on offensive and lock down on defense. They snap into form and become a juggernaut that will have their opponents fearing them in March. This run gave the Shockers a 23-11 lead forcing Sycamores head coach Greg Lansing to call a timeout with 9:32 left in the first half.
At halftime, Wichita State held a 10 point lead. They started the second half scoring the first 5 points of that half to give them a 15 point advantage. Indiana State called a timeout and the Sycamores responded to the Shockers challenge.
ISU went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead back to single-digits. Guard Manny Arop and Gant willed their team back into the game. The Shockers appeared to step off the gas for a moment, which gave the Sycamores the opportunity they needed get back into the game. Indiana State was down 4 points with 13:06 left in the second half, but that is when Shockers guard Fred Van Vleet took the game over.
Van Vleet dominated the rest of the game. He was snubbed from the Wooden Award finalist list and he wanted the Wooden committee to realize their mistake on Sunday. The MVC Player of the Year has been a distributor during this tournament, but became a scorer on Sunday in the second half. He knocked down a 3-point to extend Wichita State’s lead back to 7 points, but his cause was helped when Jake Odum picked up his fourth foul with 10:08 left in the second half. Odum’s departure gave the Shockers an opportunity to once again extend their lead to double-digits.
The Shockers point guard found Cotton who hit a 3-pointer to give Wichita State another double-digit lead and then knocked down two 3-pointers of his own as the Sycamores had to call another timeout in the midst of a 12-0 run that sealed the victory for the Shockers and their undefeated season.
The Shockers had their historical moment, but in a classy move, Baker insisted the crowd stand up for Sycamore guard Jake Odum when he left the game. It was Odum’s final game and he has had an amazing career at Indiana State.
After Odum left, it finally sunk in that the Shockers were undefeated and they were going to win the MVC Tournament for the first time since 1987. They are one of five teams to claim their ticket into the NCAA Tournament so far and did so in historic fashion.
They have developed so much this season, they are playing better now than at any point in the season. They will attempt to shock the college basketball world by winning six more games to claim an NCAA Championship and be the first team to ever to go 40-0.