Wichita State sat back on Selection Sunday as other mid-majors garnered more recognition, particularly in their own West regional.
As the 8-seed, the Shockers watched annual NCAA tournament darling Gonzaga earn the regional's top seed and Mountain West champ New Mexico earn the 3-seed. But, after an impressive knockout of Ohio State Saturday, Wichita State will be playing in the Final Four while the others watch from home. That has to feel good for coach Gregg Marshall — the guy who was overlooked and suffered notable graduation losses this past offseason.
In fact, while Gonzaga's Mark Few continues to be considered one of the nation's best coaches (likely true) and New Mexico's Steve Alford moves on to the sparkling UCLA job opening , Marshall pulled off what those coaches never have, leading a team to the national semifinals.
And, with an Atlanta showdown that could actually feature a 2-seed, two 4-seeds (Syracuse secured a spot earlier in the day) and Wichita State, there's no counting out the Shockers' from pulling off the improbable. As the first Missouri Valley Conference team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird's Indiana State, perhaps Wichita State can finish what the conference started 34 years ago.
During the halftime pep talk, Marshall told his team to “play angry.” After a running up a 13-point halftime lead, it looked like his Shockers took his words back out to the court, punking the Buckeyes out of the break and running up a 20-point advantage that looked like the makings of a rout. Of course, the Big Ten tourney champs made its move (25-9 run as the clock ticked down), but the Shockers recovered in time to walk away with a surprise 70-66 win.
In the end, though, there was only one team that earned its way in the West.
Wichita State did not need buzzer beaters to survive and advance. It won by an average margin of 10.5 points. They knocked off the No. 1 seed, a Big East team, a Big Ten team and the region’s most surprising Cinderella.
There was nothing shocking about the Shockers except for the final product. They set their own tone from the very start of this tournament.
Now, as all the other mid-majors sit at home (and some of their coaches take bigger jobs), Wichita State keeps dancing — angrily, as it turns out.
Wichita State is 1st team from Missouri Valley Conference to make Final Four since this guy led Indiana St in 1979 twitter.com/SportsCenter/s…— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 31, 2013
At this stage of tourney every team has the game plan for success...question is do ur players have the ability to execute it #Shockers do!— Greg Anthony (@GregAnthony50) March 31, 2013
and, ummm....that "wichita state" song the crowd was singing on this feed is...like, jammin for real. hbcu-esque, dare i say.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) March 31, 2013