WICHITA, Kan. - It really hasn't been that long since Wichita State enjoyed elite status in the college basketball world, but for the Shockers, it might seem like it.
Wichita State reached the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament in 2006 and the following season rose to No. 8 in the Top 25 before conference play. Then came a second-semester collapse and two middling seasons followed.
Coach Gregg Marshall and his players urge caution, but right now the Shockers appear to be one of the elite teams in the Missouri Valley Conference. An 11-1 start that includes a win over then-No. 16 Texas Tech has the Shockers receiving votes in the Associated Press poll and hoping to join fellow Sunflower State schools Kansas and Kansas State in the rankings.
Wichita State's start is its best since the 2005-06 season.
"We still haven't proved anything to the national people," senior point guard Clevin Hannah said. "We're just trying to get better, day by day, in practice, keep working hard and try to break that Top 25. If we keep working hard, then we can do it."
Marshall came in from Winthrop, where he'd posted a 194-83 record and reached seven NCAA tournaments.
It has taken him a while to get it going at Wichita State. The Shockers slumped to 11-20 his first season and went 17-17 last season. Marshall's overall mark at Wichita State is 39-38 after a 69-57 win on Monday over North Dakota State, a fact he wryly noted when asked about it after the game.
"Last year was more of a speed-up year. The first year was a standstill," Marshall said. "We're making progress, aren't we? I never had a losing record in my life until I came here, and that was a very difficult time. I don't even like to think about it. . . . Let's try to stay in the positive, plus-.500 record. We've worked long and hard to get here, and we'll see."
The Shockers were picked fifth in the conference's preseason poll, but have surpassed those expectations. Sophomore guard Toure Murry leads the team with a 13.8-point average.
Some unwanted hardware. Texas A&M senior guard Derrick Roland is heading home for Christmas - with a rod and three screws in his leg. The Aggies' defensive stopper and second-leading scorer snapped two leg bones in a fall early in the second half Tuesday night in a loss at No. 22 Washington.
The injury has spawned nearly 1,000 get-well messages to the hospital from around the country.