Scott Gleason, USA Today --- Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said one of the main reasons he left Winthrop was because he knew the simple message the NCAA tournament selection committee sent on an annual basis for mid-major teams playing in small leagues: No conference tournament title, no Big Dance.
When Marshall arrived in the top-tier mid-major league Missouri Valley, the conference was one year removed from a four-bid season in the 2006 NCAA tournament. Then came the snubs in the Valley. From 2008-2011, the MVC only shipped one team to the NCAAs. This year, Marshall had that same fear when the Shockers hit a rough patch in their season.
After a glaring loss to Southern Illinois, Marshall admitted to thinking that the season was lost. Back then, the Final Four couldn't have been further from his mind.
"I'm thinking, 'Oh boy, we may have just shot our chances to get in the NCAA tournament right in the foot, we might just have blown it.' I'm thinking that to myself, obviously, not relaying that to the team," he said.
"Thank goodness our non-conference run where we only lost one game and beat some very good teams helped us, enabled us, to get into the tournament."
Wichita State opened the season 19-2, climbed into the top 20 of the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll and ran its home-court winning streak to 19 games, beating eventual MVC champion Creighton in a high-profile meeting at Koch Arena. Then came a disastrous loss to Indiana State, and the start of a three-game skid that included that vexing road loss to Southern Illinois, which finished 6-12 in the Valley this season. It was similar to a three-game losing streak that Louisville had in January.
"It's interesting. I pointed to Louisville, I pointed to Kansas, great teams with great coaches that also suffered that type of blip, if you will, in their run to a marvelous season," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said on a coaches conference call on Monday.
Meanwhile, Louisville coach Rick Pitino continually complimented the Shockers on Monday.
"I was talking with my son," Pitino said. "And I said I thought Wichita State had a great chance of being a surprise team to the Final Four. He asked me, 'Which teams would you think?' I said VCU and Wichita State. ... I was very impressed with them."