"They're so solid across the board defensively, rebounding in every position and finishing those possessions," Lansing said. "They make you take a tough shot. They make you try to beat them by taking a tough shot."
Wichita will use full-court pressure, but isn't so one-dimensional that if its press doesn't work, an opponent automatically has a field day. The Shockers clog the lane in the half court and protect the rim without having an intimidating 7-footer at center. They rank seventh nationally with a 7.8 rebounding margin. They're 11th in scoring defense, allowing just 59.6 points per game. And they're 14th in field goal percentage defense at 39.2 percent. Giacoletti said they remind him of Michigan State teams of the past.
"They're not the normal, just out-talent you and outscore you team like most are in college basketball," he said. "They have a toughness defensively, where they take great pride in rebounding the ball on every possession."
Manny Arop, a 6-5 senior, played two seasons at Gonzaga before transferring to Indiana State. As a freshman in 2009-10, he was a reserve who played against eventual 2010 national champion Duke and Michigan State, which made the Final Four that season.
He faced the Shockers three times this season and said they belong with the elites.
"They're as tough as any opponent I've ever played against since I've been in college," Arop said. "They're way tougher than they were last year -- and we know what they did last year."
The Shockers have come to rely on their spurts. Their opponents in the Valley have come to expect them, too. The Shockers have been in plenty of games that were close in the second half, but they inevitably create separation when their opponent slips up.
"The reason why they're certainly an elite team this year, they have an ability to get on runs with their offense or their defense," Jacobson said. "It may come at any point in the game."
Moser recalled a series that effectively ended Loyola's momentum in a home loss to the Shockers. Loyola had cut its deficit to single digits and was "starting to get some hope."
"They took a shot, you watch film, we had four guys block out. The one guy we didn't block out got the rebound and layup," Moser said. "We come down, my point guard had one turnover the whole game, he chanced it, Early steals it, makes the basket, and-1. Our hope lasted for 10 seconds."
Lusk knows better than most how quickly the Shockers can pounce. Missouri State led the Shockers by five with two minutes left in regulation on Jan. 11. With less than 60 seconds remaining and a four-point lead, the home crowd may have let court-storming ambitions creep into its collective mind.
It all changed in an instant when a controversial blocking foul was called on Nathan Scheer with 47 seconds left. VanVleet converted a three-point play that cut the Bears' lead to one. The call was out of their control, but as Lusk pointed out, they didn't take care of what was theirs. They turned it over on their ensuing possession, allowing the Shockers to send the game into overtime, where they eventually won.
"That's what good teams do like Wichita State," Lusk said. "If you keep that door ever so slightly open, they're going to find a way to bust through it."