Wichita State Shockers ( 1 Seed, Midwest Bracket)
Record: 34-0 (18-0 in MVC)
Coach: Greg Marshall
Tournament Berth: At Large
Big Wins: Tennessee, Alabama
Big Loses: none
The Wichita State Shockers were a Cinderella story in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Though they did not win it all, they carried the momentum of their Final Four finish in to this season. Now entering this year’s tournament, the Shockers have not lost a game since the Louisville Cardinals came back from a 12-point deficit to knock them out last year. At 34-0, they are the hottest team in the NCAA.
Despite their impressive record, Wichita State has many doubters. The Shockers play in the woeful Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). No other team in the MVC was ranked this year, and none of the Shockers’ games outside it were against any top 25 teams. However, a perfect record going in to the big dance cannot be ignored.
C – Kadeem Coleby
F – Cleanthony Early
G – Fred VanVleet
G – Tekele Cotton
G – Ron Baker
Who’s Hot: Tekele Cotton has grown leaps and bounds this season, and although he is not leading the team in any major offensive or defensive categories, he is still a sparkplug for the Shockers. Wichita States’ major strength is their ability to score. Any of of the starting five, along with a few key members of the bench, can carry the team for spurts of time. They tend to spread the ball around a lot, though their assist numbers are not very high.
Who’s Not: The Shockers as a whole are playing good basketball, but the level of competition they have faced all year might make them relax too much. They have also had a large chunk of time off in between their last game and the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Wichita State must come out focused in their first round game, not flat, or they could have some real problems.
Outlook: Last year’s Cinderella is definitely not yesterday’s news. This Wichita State team is poised to make another final four run, and could even make it to the school’s first NCAA Championship Game. However, this year’s team faces one huge hurdle that last year’s did not; pressure. It is easy to play as a 15 seed because the expectations are low, and the pressure is light. As a high seed and high ranked team, the Shockers have high expectations for this year’s tournament, and so do their fans. They will be playing against a low seed that has nothing really to lose, but an opportunity to knock out a potential favorite. If the Shockers can play the role of hunted as well as they played the hunter, they are poised for a fantastic showing. If they make it past the first round upset alert, they will almost certainly be in the final four.
Commentary by Chris Chisam