Win or lose Saturday vs. Ohio State, the ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers have lived up to their nickname in the 2013 NCAA tournament, stunning Pitt, Gonzaga and La Salle en route to the Elite Eight for the first time in over 30 years.
Led by three sensational upperclassmen in Cleanthony Early, Carl Hall and Malcolm Armstead, Gregg Marshall's squad has shattered brackets around the country. But Wichita State's memorable run wouldn't have been possible without some timely contributions from a trio of cold-blooded guards.
Below, we'll highlight the Shockers' unsung NCAA tournament heroes.
Freshman guard Ron Baker has delivered in big moments for Wichita State this spring, most notably helping pull the Shockers out of a second-half hole against Gonzaga in Salt Lake City in the third round.
After struggling in his first career NCAA tournament game against Pitt, Baker, looking more like a seasoned senior rather than an inexperienced freshman, poured in three three-pointers and two free throws in the final 12 minutes of regulation against the top-seeded Bulldogs to help ignite Wichita State's comeback and propel Gregg Marshall's bunch into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.
Baker was superb again for the Shockers in their Sweet 16 win over La Salle, scoring 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor.
Without Baker's long-range heroics and incredible hustle against Gonzaga, however, Wichita State would have been watching the West Regional semifinals from home on Thursday.
Sophomore Tekele Cotton is averaging just under seven points per game for Wichita State in tournament play this March, but his sequence late in the second half against Gonzaga was pivotal for the Shockers.
With Wichita State trailing the Zags by seven points with six minutes to play, Cotton launched and connected on a three-pointer that kept the top-seeded Bulldogs within reach. On the next Shockers possession, Cotton assisted on a Cleanthony Early three-pointer that kept Wichita State close heading into the final five minutes.
Although the 6'2" guard's stat line of eight points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals wasn't enough to steal the show, his clutch series of plays late were paramount for the Shockers.
He would chip in six points, four rebounds and two assists in Wichita State's dominant win over La Salle.
Fred Van Vleet
After scoring just one point in Wichita State's second-round win over Pitt, freshman guard Fred Van Vleet scored a combined 20 points in two wins over Gonzaga and La Salle to help the Shockers reach the Elite Eight.
Van Vleet has come off the bench in all three of the Shockers' tournament games this March, but he has made mighty contributions as both a playmaker and a scorer.
The freshman recorded three assists, knocked in two three-pointers and went 5-of-5 at the foul line in Wichita State's upset of Gonzaga. He also chipped in seven points in 18 minutes off the bench against La Salle in the Sweet 16.
Van Vleet's shining moment came against the Zags in the round of 32, however, when he scored seven points in the final 90 seconds of the game to help his team pull off one of the tournament's biggest upsets.
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