Wichita State’s rise in the national spotlight shows no sign of slowing as an unbeaten 2013 heads into the many possibilities of 2014.
By Paul Suellentrop
The Wichita Eagle
The Shockers moved up two spots to No. 8 in Monday’s Associated Press Top 25 men’s basketball poll. They are 13-0 after Sunday’s 81-70 win over Davidson and one win away from tying the program’s record for consecutive victories. WSU received 1,067 points from the poll of writers and broadcasters after losses by No. 8 Villanova and No. 6 Louisville cleared the way.
Kansas (8-3) is No. 16, remaining in the same spot as the previous week. Kansas State (9-3) received three votes. WSU is also seventh in the USA Today coaches poll, up one spot, while KU dropped one spot to No. 17.
WSU’s unbeaten streak is carrying the program into territory rarely traveled. The Shockers spent two weeks at No. 8 in December 2006 before falling. No. 8 is WSU’s highest spot in the AP poll since it climbed to No. 2 in the Dec. 29, 1981 poll.
The Shockers begin Missouri Valley Conference play at Southern Illinois (4-9) on Thursday. The players are doing their best to avoid the hype surrounding their 13-0 start. The 18-game conference schedule, they know, will demand their full attention. A win at SIU, where the Shockers lost last season, ties the 1953-54 team with a 14-game streak.
“We don’t really talk about it much,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “After the new year, we’ve got some big games coming up and we know teams are going to be coming at us.”
WSU accomplished one goal by finishing its non-conference schedule without a loss for the first time since it joined the MVC in 1945. Its 13 non-conference wins (also accomplished in 1954-55) are the most since the 1953-54 team won 19 on its way to a 27-4 record. It is also one of 18 MVC teams to start a season 13-0 or better. Eleven of those teams made it to 14-0.
“We just wanted to finish the year out pretty good and 13-0 is pretty good,” WSU senior Cleanthony Early said. “We’ll take it and hopefully we can make as much as noise in the second half.”