The Wichita State Shockers were a relative unknown basketball program until the 2013 NCAA Tournament. They lived up to their name, shocking the world and making an unprecedented run all the way to the Final Four. During their Cinderella campaign, Wichita State knocked out three nationally ranked teams. They first took out no. 20 Pittsburg, then no. 1 Gonzaga, and finally no. 7 Ohio State, putting them on a collision course with no. 2 Louisville in the Final Four. Though they lost to the Cardinals, the team walked away having made their mark on the basketball world. Since that day, the Shockers have not lost a game. Tonight, with a 64-37 win over the Cal Poly Mustangs, they have taken their fame one step further. The Wichita State Shockers have made NCAA history, by becoming the first team to ever post a 35-0 record.
Sure, there have been several teams that have won more than 35 games in a season. The 1986 Duke Blue Devils won 37 games, though they did not walk away with a championship. The UNLV Running Rebels won 37 games the very next year, but did not even make it past the semi-finals. Duke again matched the record in 1999, but still failed to win a trophy. Illinois did the same thing in 2005. The Kentucky Wildcats were the last team to win 37 games, accomplishing the feat in 2012. Like so many others, they were unable to win the big game and walked away in second place.
The 2008 Kansas Jayhawks had better success. They only won 37 games too, but they walked away winners. They beat Memphis 75-68 in a game that is still considered one of the best championship games to be played in the last 20 years. The 2007-08 Memphis Tigers team that lost the overtime thriller owns the record for most wins ever in an NCAA season, winning 38 games and only losing two. Though all of these teams won over 35 games, none of them ever posted a record of 35-0 or better.
There have also been seven basketball teams that have won the NCAA Championship without registering a single blemish on their record. Though these teams may feature some of the greatest players of our time, not a single one of them won more than 34 games. None of them won the championship after the NCAA Tournament field was expanded to over 64 games in 1985 either.
So, by knocking off Cal Poly in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament tonight, the Wichita State Shockers have made history. For the first time ever in the history of college basketball, a team has posted a record of 35-0. Many doubters will say that the Shockers play in a sub-par conference and never had any real competition on their way to 35 wins. That may be true, but no one remembers every team the undefeated Miami Dolphins played. They just remember they were perfect.
Wichita State has a chance to silence all the critics. Yes, the Shockers have made history tonight by reaching a perfect 35-0 mark, but 40-0 would be even better. If Wichita state can win the NCAA Championship and finish the season undefeated, it will be hard to argue that they are not perhaps one of the greatest teams to ever play the game.
Commentary by Chris Chisam