Wichita St.-Bradley Preview
FEB 24, 2014 9:38p ET
With the Missouri Valley Conference title wrapped up, Wichita State can focus solely on adding to its perfect record.
With Tekele Cotton setting career highs with 21 points and seven steals, Wichita State secured its second MVC regular-season championship in three seasons with an 83-54 rout of visiting Drake on Saturday.
"It means a lot, it really does," point guard Fred VanVleet said. "It's something we didn't do last year. It's special, and we appreciate it. But, at the same time, we have more goals ahead of us."
The Shockers became the first team to reach 29-0 since Illinois in 2004-05 and moved to 16-0 in conference play for the first time in school history. Eleven teams have started 30-0 or better, but none have earned all 30-plus wins during the regular season.
UNLV's 1990-91 squad is the most recent to start 30-0 or better - 34-0 before a loss to Duke in the national semifinals - and ended the regular season with 27 wins. The 2003-04 Saint Joseph's team is the last to complete a perfect regular season, also at 27-0.
With two games left in the regular season, Wichita State can move to the cusp of accomplishing that goal with its ninth consecutive win against Bradley (12-17, 7-9). The Shockers have won by an average of 23.5 points during their run in the series and came away with a 72-50 home victory Jan. 14.
Wichita State had a subpar shooting performance (39.6 percent) but held the Braves to 35.2 percent and made 15 more free throws. VanVleet matched a career high with 22 points while making seven of 10 shots.
The rematch will feature the two best defensive teams in the MVC, though Wichita State (60.8 points allowed per game) holds a sizable edge over Bradley (65.5). The Shockers are also first in scoring at 75.8 points per contest while the Braves are last at 63.8.
Bradley is averaging 58.8 points in its last four but managed to snap a three-game skid with a 55-38 rout over Loyola of Chicago on Saturday. The Braves shot 38.0 percent but limited the Ramblers to 26.5 percent and a 1-for-18 performance from 3-point range while forcing a season-high 23 turnovers.
Walt Lemon Jr., the MVC's third-leading scorer with 17.7 points per game, was the only player in double figures for Bradley (16) despite missing 13 of 18 shots. The senior guard scored 12 on 5-of-14 shooting against Wichita State in January.
The Shockers have won in each of their last three trips to Bradley since a 75-73 loss Feb. 24, 2010, that was also their most recent overall defeat in the series.
Wichita State is the highest-ranked team to visit the Braves since they beat the then-No. 2 Shockers 55-47 on Jan. 9, 1982.