The next time you see your loved one, hold on tight and don’t let go. Ensure they know how appreciated they are, and go out of your way to do something nice for them, because life without them probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as enjoyable. This is the sad state a couple members of the sports community currently face.
Aaron Rodgers and his girlfriend, Olivia Munn, split yesterday, ending their three-year relationship. (Maybe he could talk to his brother about finding love.) Joining Rodgers in the Heartbreak Hotel is the Missouri Valley Conference, after their beloved Wichita State Shockers found someone who simply has more to offer. Sure, Gregg Marshall and the rest of the Wichita State basketball team may not be as physically attractive as Olivia Munn, but they were the apple of the Valley’s eye. The conference has every right to spend the next few months alone in its room, wallowing in self-pity.
Wichita State’s new lover, the American Athletic Conference, offers more security and a brighter future. The legitimate competition the Shockers will face in the AAC will ensure the mean, old Selection Committee stops criminally under-seeding them in the NCAA Tournament.
Though I advise the Valley to delete Wichita State from all social media accounts to protect itself from more harm, the rest of us won’t be able to take our eyes off the hot new couple. Here’s what to expect in their honeymoon stage.
(If you stopped following the love-filled metaphor a while ago, I’m about to present the 2017-18 AAC basketball odds.)
AAC Regular Season Championship Odds
Wichita State: 5/3
East Carolina: 200/1
South Florida: 500/1
The Shockers don’t lose anyone from their ten-man rotation; this is a group that nearly upset no. 2 Kentucky in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Gregg Marshall will be expecting big things out of Landry Shamet in his sophomore year, after he thrived as a freshman once given the opportunity to run the point. But Shamet isn’t the only player to be excited about.
This may be Marshall’s best team yet, which says a lot stacked up against the teams of Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet. KenPom has Wichita State ranked fifth in the nation ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Southern Methodist’s season is relying on the return of one player: Semi Ojeleye. The Duke transfer was outstanding in his first season with the Mustangs, averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG. There is a strong chance Ojeleye would go in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, so the junior will have to weigh his options. If he returns, SMU will challenge the Shockers for AAC supremacy; if not, Shake Milton will have to do too much on his own, resulting in much longer odds.
Cincinnati will have to replace the quarterback of its offense, Troy Caupain, but Jarron Cumberland’s impressive freshman year softens that blow a little. If the team gets star forward Kyle Washington back, the defense will be very strong again, given that Gary Clark is also sticking around and Mick Cronin is still the coach.
With Memphis and UConn both seeing their rosters ravaged by defections, the dark-horse of the conference becomes the Temple Owls. Shizz Alston Jr had a very promising freshman campaign, and the Owls have landed a handful of four-star recruits for 2017.
Over/Under Wichita State’s 2018 NCAA Tournament seed: 2.5
The Shockers won’t be overlooked by the Selection Committee anymore, as both SMU and Cincinnati will appear at least once on their schedule. Add in some juicy non-conference matchups, and this will be a tested Wichita State team.
Over/Under AAC teams in the 2018 NCAA Tournament: 2.5
The Shockers and Bearcats should saunter into the big dance, but SMU will be in tough if Ojeleye chooses to get paid. Receiving two at-large bids would be tough if one isn’t Wichita State. But it’s certainly possible, especially when you consider the performance of some of the Power Five conferences in 2017’s tourney. (I’m looking at you, all members of the ACC other than North Carolina.)
Photo Credit: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire.