Non-conference games highlight finalized schedule

Wichita State eyes their fourth straight Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball title. 

Their hopes for a March filled with glory start with a season filled with RPI-boosting games on their nonconference schedule. The MVC finalized the Shockers’ schedule Tuesday.

WSU’s first major test will be a game against Lousiana State, the Shocker’s first opponent in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. LSU had an underperforming year last season, with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Ben Simmons. 

The Tigers finished 11-7 in the SEC while finishing five games over .500 with a 19-14 record. LSU has a seven underclassman and having one senior, on the 2016-17 roster. The Tigers are athletic and present a size-threat. 

The results of the first-round game will determine the next opponent for WSU. 

If the Shockers advance, Louisville will most likely be WSU’s next opponent in this tournament, setting up a rematch of the 2013 Final Four. 

The Cardinals did not play in the NCAA Tournament last season due to a self-imposed ban from postseason play. Louisville finished in the top 50 in the RPI rankings last season. A victory over the Cardinals would give the Shocker’s résumé a spark when the selection committee is looking for at-large bids. 

The Shocker’s final game in the Bahamas will be Baylor, Michigan State, VCU or St. John’s. With the exception of St. John’s, any of these opponents would mean another RPI boost, bolstering more favor for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. 

Another important game on WSU’s schedule is against the University of Oklahoma on Dec. 10 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma is looking to replicate their Final Four season from last season.

Forward Khadeem Lattin and senior guard Jordan Woodard, the only returning starters, are expected to lead the Sooners this season. 

Without first team All-American Buddy Hield on their roster, Woodard will be main force leading the offense. Woodard is the Sooner’s returning leading scorer, averaging 13 points a game last season. 

Coming off a Final Four appearance in 2015, the Sooners add strength to the Shocker’s non conference schedule. 

Every team in the MVC will be gunning for WSU, thinking this might be the year that the Shockers are knocked off the throne. 

Northern Iowa challenges WSU in conference play, coming off a semi-finals victory over the Shockers in the MVC tournament — ultimately leading to an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.  

The Panthers also are coming off a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament, where they beat Texas 75-72 off of a Paul Jespersen half-court buzzer beater. UNI’s March run eventually ended after giving up an 11-point lead in the final seconds to Texas A&M in overtime in the Round of 32. 

UNI will look to overcome the defeat from March by challenging WSU for the MVC title, with Jeremy Morgan leading the Panthers this season after earning honorable mention in the MVC last season along with a spot on the All-Defensive team. Klint Carlson and Wyatt Lohaus will step into a larger role as starters, as UNI’s bench scoring helped defeat WSU in two out of three games. 

The Shockers dealt with forward Bennett Koch last season and he returns as a valuable inside-out-scorer from the post. 

The Panther’s ended the Shocker’s home-winning streak of 42 games last season, which was the longest active home streak in the country at the time. 

Wichita State begins exhibition play with Augusta University Nov. 5.