NCAA countdown: No. 18 Wichita State
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: If anyone was surprised by Wichita State’s Final Four run last season, it was coach Gregg Marshall.
The Shockers entered 2012-13 having lost their top five scorers from a group that went went 27-6 in 2011-12 and won the NIT a year before.
And despite fighting Creighton toe-to-toe in the Missouri Valley title race, a three-game skid placed the Shockers on the bubble and nearly removed WSU from the at-large board for an NCAA tournament bid.
Then the calendar turned to March, and the only losses Wichita State suffered came against MVC champion Creighton, now a member of the Big East, and eventual champion Louisville in the Final Four.
Considering Marshall’s success given the fact that he’s lost 14 seniors in the last three years, the suggestion that a surprising mid-major like Wichita State is a flash in the pan couldn’t be further from the truth. The “Marshall Plan” continues to work, and while another deep Big Dance run might seem farfetched, it’d be naive to expect a significant dropoff from the Shockers.
This season, Marshall brings back a roster in which half of the players have NCAA tournament experience. WSU loses several key players including bruiser Carl Hall and heady point guard Malcolm Armstead, but springy, do-everything forward Cleanthony Early returns for a team that will now be circled on plenty more brackets.
2012-13 in review: 30-9 overall (12-6 Missouri Valley), lost in NCAA tournament Final Four.
Tournament projection: No. 5 seed, automatic bid.
Coach’s corner: “I thought we had more talented teams the previous two years. Last year’s team had a toughness factor that was unmatched in close games. Our system has proven to work pretty well over the years, but we just have hard-working, tough guys. And as coaches, we really try to make sure the players know we care about them on and off the court. That way, when they walk out on the court, they’ll run through the wall for you. Not every program can say that. ….We’ve got a special program here. It’d take a special opportunity to pull me away … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 18 Wichita State, click here.]