For all of the things that Gregg Marshall and the Wichita State Shockers went through between being mentioned as a number 9 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and plodding that along to a Final Four berth, this 34-0 regular season record has been simply remarkable to witness.
During the final of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis and in front of a nationwide TV audience, their 83-69 victory was not a typical win over the Sycamores of Indiana State.
They did get pushed around a bit. Midway through the second half–their shooting went ice cold and Indiana State’s money player, guard Jake Odom made a few key shots to cut the Shockers double digit lead down to four.
But it was the play outside of Fred VanFleet, whose game high 22 points that proved to be the difference. Tekele Cotton added 20 as part of the team’s historic accomplishment.
Unless Florida suffers a first-round loss in the SEC Tournament later this week down in Atlanta, it would be safe to expect that Wichita State will be slotted as the Number 1 seed in the Midwest Region next Sunday night. The Shockers also won their first MVC postseason title since 1987.
Two long tourney droughts end for mid-majors
Coastal Carolina broke open a tight game with 12 minutes left and sent Winthrop packing for the NIT, winning at home 76-61. Head Coach Cliff Ellis joins an elite group, as one of only ten coaches to reach the NCAA Tournament while coaching four different schools (the others were South Alabama, Clemson, and Auburn).
With a 21-12 and an average of winning 22 games in the last five seasons, they will probably be Dayton-bound to play in the first quandrant of play-in games.
Meanwhile, further south–a power outage delayed the start of the Atlantic Sun title game. But the Mercer Bears had other ideas, completely throwing Dunk City off course on their own campus. Mercer shocked Florida Gulf Coast by a score of 68-60. After enjoying a 33-17 lead at halftime, the Eagles could only muster 41% shooting from the field and 10 of 18 from the free-throw line. Mercer was led in scoring by the guard duo of Langston Hall and Anthony White, Jr. Each man scored 15 points on 11 of 20 combined shooting. As a team, the Bears did not shoot the ball well (22 of 60 for 36.7%), but they made it count from the charity stripe (20 of 24 for 83.3%). Another key to Mercer’s upset, they did not turnover the ball that much–FGCU had 12 turnover, while Mercer had only six.
Other games of note on Sunday, as the regular season wrapped up for the bigger schools:
Maryland survived a last-second tip at the regulation buzzer to shock Virginia in their final ever ACC home game after 61 years, winning in overtime 75-69. Expect Virginia to be a number 2 seed, as it appears Michigan will be sliding into the third or fourth number one seed this time next week.
Another team hoping to keep their bubble chances alive was Florida State, but they could not resonate well after their football team won the final ever BCS crown in January snapping the SEC’s long dominance on the gridiron.
Syracuse appears to be righting the ship correctly after losing 4 of 5 and two games in a row, this after starting the season 25-0. Keying the 74-58 win at Tallahassee was Jerami Grant, who had in recent days been bothered by back problems, tabulated 16 points and eight rebounds while Tyler Ennis finished with another 16 points for the Orange (27-4, 14-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). Florida State appears to be NIT bound with this crushing loss (18-12 overall, 9-9 in ACC play). Rebounding was also huge in the Orange’s favor, nearly 2 to 1 with the edge being 43-24.
The remaining games on Sunday night are all semifinal games in the CAA (NBC Sports Network–Delaware along with William & Mary, advancing to Monday night’s title game) and the rest of the games are online in the MAAC, Southern, and the America East conference.
Albany won at home 67-58 over top seed Vermont, and will await the winner of Hartford or Stony Brook, of which that winner will host Albany on Saturday morning for the America East title.
Monday will have the MEAC Conference starting up.