At this rate, the NCAA men's basketball committee is going to have a really tough time giving Wichita State its usual No. 10 seed.
I kid, I kid. The seed the Shockers received last season, even though they were 31-4 at the time, was the epitome of "Who have they beaten?" thinking.
So be it, fair enough, and did I mention that won't be an issue this season? Gregg Marshall's team has beaten Baylor, and the Shockers have done so in Waco, Texas, 69-62.
Then again, this particular contest was a Short-handed Invitational of sorts. Wichita State has been without starting big man Markis McDuffie all season long. The 6-foot-8 junior has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot. If and when McDuffie returns, he'll be joining a group that already has shown it's one of the best teams in the country. Consider this record ...
Wichita State lost the title game of the Maui Classic to Notre Dame by one point. That game, which the Shockers led for almost the entire 40 minutes, is all that stands between Marshall's guys and an undefeated record right now.
True, the record books are filled with undefeated December wonders who were distant memories come March. WSU doesn't exactly fit that profile.
In the process of recording wins not only against Baylor but also over California and Marquette (both in Maui), Wichita State has held its opponents to an overall 2-point shooting figure of just 41 percent. And, again, that's without a member of last season's starting front court having played one minute. Good luck taking it to the rim against the likes of Shaquille Morris, Darral Willis and Rashard Kelly.
On offense, Landry Shamet is shooting a Buddy Hield-like 54 percent on his 3s this season, and keep in mind he's supposed to be the creating point guard alongside the real sharpshooter, Conner Frankamp. Speaking of Frankamp, he was actually in something of a slump from the perimeter until he broke loose to hit five shots from beyond the arc against Baylor. This team can beat you in a number of ways.
If there's a concern for Marshall (and what coach doesn't like to find something to worry him?), it could be turnovers -- or, more specifically, a turnover disparity. While Wichita State gives the ball away at an average rate (18 percent of the time), that frequency is higher than what opponents have shown (16). That's not necessarily the best precursor in December.
Nor will the Shockers want to continue to allow opponents to shoot so many 3s. So far those shots haven't gone in, but over the long haul it's risky to let the opposing offense fire up well over 40 percent of its attempts from beyond the arc.
But, again, we're speaking of concerns in the context of a team that has a fair chance of entering American play with an 11-1 record and ranked nationally in the top 10 -- if not top five. Wichita State will next face South Dakota State at home, before taking on both Oklahoma State (in Stillwater) and Oklahoma (in Wichita) on consecutive Saturdays.
Marshall has made his name with teams that play unrelentingly tough defense (highlighted in particular by consistent dominance on the glass), while also putting points on the board at a very high, if often underrated, per-possession rate. This season, the "underrated" part of the profile may be in jeopardy. In addition to Shamet's gaudy 3-point shooting, there's the fact that Morris, Willis, Kelly and Rauno Nurger are shooting a combined 57 percent inside the arc.
If the Shockers keep performing this way on both sides of the ball, they may have to get used to playing in the NCAA tournament as (gasp!) a very high seed. Correctly. Ask Baylor.