N. Colorado-Wichita St. Preview
Wichita State had been flying under the radar at the national level, but a perfect record through eight games has merited some recognition and the Shockers have cracked the Top 25.
They seem unlikely to face any kind of letdown in their first contest as a ranked team.
The No. 24 Shockers look to match the best start in school history Saturday night when they host a Northern Colorado squad that's lost five in a row.
Although Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference last season, made the NCAA tournament as a No. 5 seed and ended 2011-12 ranked 18th, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the squad this season.
The Shockers boasted a senior-heavy lineup in 2011-12, but lost their top five scorers from last season that accounted for nearly 70 percent of the offense. To fill the void, coach Gregg Marshall has relied on different players stepping up on a nightly basis.
"If every game we can have a couple of guys play the best they've ever played in our uniform we have a chance to be pretty good," Marshall said after an 86-60 win over Tulsa on Nov. 28.
Although Wichita State has had five players score at least 17 in a game, Carl Hall has been the main cog in the offense.
The senior is averaging 14.5 points - 6.1 better than last season - and 8.1 rebounds in helping the Shockers reach the Top 25 in consecutive years for the first time since 1982-83 and 1983-84. Wichita State last started 9-0 in 2006-07.
Hall had 21 points, shot 9 of 10 and grabbed 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double in a 72-69 win over Air Force on Sunday.
He wasn't the only Wichita State player to shoot well. Cleanthony Early was 5 of 9 for 12 points and reserve Demetric Williams made three of four 3-pointers and finished with 10.
The Shockers, allowing 59.4 points and 37.8 percent shooting per game, hit a season-high 58.3 percent from the field in their 21st road win in 24 tries.
They'll be back at Koch Arena for Saturday's game, looking for their 22nd straight home win over an unranked team, and Northern Colorado (1-5) is nowhere near the Top 25.
The Bears have been outscored by an average of 11.8 points in losing all of their games since defeating Division II school Southwest in their opener. Northern Colorado dropped its seventh straight road contest Wednesday, 76-59 to Northern Iowa.
Leading scorer Tevin Svihovec had a team-high 16 points and has averaged 15.0 in the last three games.
The Bears have been outrebounded by 7.7 a contest in their last three games, and could be in store for another tough night on the glass against the Shockers, who've outrebounded their last three opponents by an average of 8.0.