Can Wichita State Run The NCAA Table?

Before the start of the NCAA tournament it was trendy in mainstream sports media circles to label certain teams as 'overrated' and 'underrated'.  And no team was dismissed as 'overrated' more often than the Wichita State Shockers.  The argument went that last year's Final Four run was a fluke and that playing in the weak Missouri Valley Conference Wichita State is ill prepared to step up in class and compete for a NCAA Championship.  Besides, the argument continues, they no longer have the 'element of surprise' that they did last year—to employ a well work cliche they are now the 'hunted' and no longer the 'hunter'.

There's definitely some validity to those points.  Wichita State made an impressive run to the Final Four last year and that's a tough act to follow, especially for a mid-major.  Though there is some precedent—witness Butler's back to back championship game appearances in recent years.  The Missouri Valley Conference is definitely not a top tier league and it's actually 'down' from recent years.  Creighton used to be a tough Missouri Valley team but they've left for a higher profile circuit.  And there's some truth to the contention that Wichita State didn't play a particularly tough schedule this year.

On the flip side, Wichita State also didn't lose this year.  What might be even more impressive is how effectively they covered point spreads this season.  This suggests that although they're no longer 'sneaking up' on any of their opponents that the betting marketplace still has them drastically undervalued.  The Shockers are currently 25-6 against the spread and 24-6 as a favorite on  Their performance as a favorite is highly significant—they're a double digit chalk every time they take the court and they continue to cover these ever more inflated numbers.  Against opponents with winning records they're a perfect 16-0 SU/15-1 against the spread.

Prior to the tournament it was trendy for bookmakers and handicappers to illustrate the fact that Wichita State was overrated by insisting that they'd be an underdog to just about every team they face in this year's tournament after the first round.  Some even said Kentucky would be a -1 point favorite.  Of course it's a different matter when bookmakers have to set a line and open a window to take bets.  At press time, Wichita State is -3' over Kentucky which suggests that much of the talk of the Shockers being 'overrated' was simply bloviation and hot air. 

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