The 2017-18 college basketball season is nearly upon us. And I’m here to tell you that Wichita State is a legitimate national championship contender and at a great value betting price to win it.
Only schools from Power 5 conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC – win national titles in college football. It’s simply how the system is set up and not likely to ever change. That’s where the money is.
It’s quite possible for a school from a non-Power 5 to win the NCAA basketball national championship because the NCAA Tournament gives so many a chance. Even the smallest schools can upset a powerhouse in one game. For purposes of this story, I’m going to count the Big East as a power conference in basketball. I say that because if you throw out current or former Big East schools Villanova and UConn, no team from a non-power conference has won it all since that loaded UNLV team in 1990.
But a few have come close. There was Gonzaga last year, battling North Carolina right to the end. Butler made back-to-back national title games to start this decade, losing to Duke and UConn, and parlayed that success into an invitation to the Big East.
I believe there is one school outside the power conference with a legitimate chance to cut down the nets the first Monday of April in the San Antonio Alamodome: Wichita State. It is priced at -3000 on 5Dimes NCAA basketball odds. That’s tremendous value.
The Shockers have one of the best coaches in the country in Gregg Marshall. They have made the NCAA Tournament each of the past six years. In 2013, Wichita State reached the Final Four as a No. 9 seed, losing to eventual national champion Louisville 72-68. WSU got a horrible draw in the 2014 Big Dance when Wichita State was 35-0 and top-seeded. The Shockers had to play a loaded No. 8 Kentucky in the second round. The Cats won a thriller 78-76.
Marshall’s team reached the regional semifinals in 2015, lost in the first round the next year and were terribly seeded (again) last year as a No. 10 despite a 30-4 record and 15-game winning streak entering the tournament. The Shockers lost in the second round to No. 2 Kentucky, 65-62.
Shockers Shift To Better Conference
Wichita State officials decided to jump at the chance to leave the Missouri Valley Conference this season for the much better respected American Athletic Conference. A higher level of competition – SMU, Memphis, UConn, Cincinnati to name four – theoretically should help Wichita State come tournament time in both seeding and experience playing better teams.
All five starters are back from last year’s team, led by preseason All-American candidate Landry Shamet. He averaged 11.4 points per game and shot 44 percent from 3-point range as the team’s starting point guard. NBA scouts have their eyes on him. Shamet did have offseason foot surgery but should be good to go. The other starters are Zach Brown, Shaquille Morris, Markis McDuffie (will return mid-to-late December from a stress fracture) and Conner Frankamp.
Among those who played at least 35 percent of WSU’s minutes, everyone but Daishon Smith is back. Overall, the Shockers return 87.4 percent of their minutes and 91.2 percent of their scoring and rebounding from last season.
Ken Pomeroy, the most noted statistical guru in the sport, has released his preseason rankings and Wichita State is No. 4 behind Villanova, Kentucky and Arizona, Wichita State, and Kansas to round out the top-five. Yep, higher than Duke, the +500 title favorite on the NCAA basketball futures, and Kansas (+1400) and Michigan State (+650). Pomeroy uses a detailed formula to measure a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency to arrive at a final rating.
In the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, WSU is ranked No. 8. The school’s last preseason Top-10 appearance in a Coaches Poll was prior to the 1981-82 season. Wichita State opens the season against UMKC on Nov. 10 and starts conference play Dec. 30 at UConn.