Wichita State Basketball: Why Shockers Are Legitimate Threat to Reach Title Game

Ryan DavenportContributor IMarch 30, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30:  Malcolm Armstead #2 of the Wichita State Shockers talks with teammates Carl Hall #22, Fred Van Vleet #23 and Ron Baker #31 in the second half while taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes during the West Regional Final of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

This has become a pattern this spring: NCAA college basketball analysts count Wichita State out, and the Shockers show up and pull off a stunner over a national power, but somehow we're surprised each time the trend continues. 

It's understandable, because as a No. 9 seed, the Shockers were supposed to stick to the tried and true script for Cinderella teams: hang around with the contender for a little over 75 percent of the game, and then fall apart down the stretch as the powerhouse's advantage in the skill department takes over. 

By now, we shouldn't be surprised, because the Shockers are no fluke. They've taken down two of the nation's best teams in Gonzaga and Ohio State, so at this point we have to acknowledge Wichita State for what they are, which is a legitimate national championship contender. 

No, it doesn't make sense. Outside of teams coached by the legendary Jimmy Valvano, teams seeded in the lower half of the tournament aren't supposed to be taking on a perennial contender in the Final Four, but that's exactly what 's Shockers are about to do. 

What's actually even more impressive about the Shockers' magical run has been the team's ability to grind out victories in close games, which was once again the case on Saturday night, as the Shockers edged out the vaunted Buckeyes 70-66 in a game that was a nail-biter from start to finish. 

Marshall's boys are a balanced squad, and that was on display on Saturday night. Four players scored in double figures, despite a relatively putrid shooting performance from some of the Shockers' stars. 

In particular, Malcolm Armstead, WSU's undisputed game-breaker, had a forgettable night from the field, going just 6-of-21, but the 6'0" senior guard made up for his shooting difficulties by pulling down seven boards to go along with his 14 points. 

Fortunately, Cleanthony Early picked up some of the slack by hitting double-digits on the scoreboard for the third time in the tournament on 5-of-9 shooting. More importantly, Early picked up seven boards for the fourth consecutive game. 

Between Armstead, Early, Carl Hall and Rob Baker, the Shockers somehow find ways to consistently put up 70 points a game against some of the country's best defenses, which is why we should not doubt that they'll be in the mix against either Duke or Louisville for a spot in the national title game.

It is worth noting that Ohio State's offense was as dysfunctional as it gets from the perimeter, but that shouldn't have mattered. If this Shockers team was intent on playing the role the NCAA tournament expected of it, they would have bowed out last week. 

Instead, we're about to watch as a No. 9 seed takes on either a No. 1 or a No. 2, and the strangest aspect of the whole thing is, there aren't a lot of people that would be surprised (or shocked) if the Shockers took down yet another heavyweight. 

But this isn't just any old NCAA tournament. 

La Salle, Oregon, Florida Gulf Coast, Ole Miss and Wichita State have been the headliners of the Big Dance, but at the end of the day, we'll be talking about the mid-major that shocked the college basketball world by making a compelling run to the Final Four, and maybe even the national championship.