Wichita State Basketball: Being Big Underdog Puts Shockers in Familiar Position

Ethan GrantAnalyst IApril 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30:  Head coach Gregg Marshall of the Wichita State Shockers celebrates by cutting down the net after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 70-66 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

Wichita State may not be the lower seed in the Final Four in Atlanta, but that's perfectly alright to a team that has adopted it's mascot—the Shockers—quite incredibly over the course of the 2013 NCAA tournament.

Some would say that the Shockers have No. 1 Louisville right where they want them.

Three of Wichita State's four NCAA tournament opponents have been lower seeds (No. 8 Pittsburgh, No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State) and the other (No. 13 La Salle) was one of the hottest teams in the tournament at the time of the showdown.

Simply put—Gregg Marshall's team thrives on being the underdog.

It will have a chance to prove that it has the ability to survive against a better, more experienced and more talented team on Saturday, too. Louisville is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region for a reason, in large part because this is second year of what's turned out to be an incredible two-year stint for Peyton Siva and company.

Right now, Wichita State is a double-digit underdog (-10, via SportsBook). While that number might seem insurmountable in a game of this magnitude, it would be extremely foolish to write this team off because the guys in Vegas don't think it's possible.

It's exactly what Wichita State wants you to do.

As characterized through a report by USA Today's Eric Prisbell, the Shockers have taken on the gritty, hard-nosed approach of their head coach.

Marshall has turned Kansas' third-tier option (behind Kansas and Kansas State) into a first-tier option for high school basketball castoffs, putting together a program that consistently is in contention in the Missouri Valley Conference despite not acquiring the best recruits on lists that rate high school talent.

Prisbell confirmed that notion in his piece:

Marshall, who is in his sixth season at the Missouri Valley Conference school, is quick to note all the success Wichita State has achieved despite landing just one top 100 prospect. His roster includes an ideal blend of the overlooked and underexposed, including several former junior college players who, Marshall says, did not exactly enjoy "the lifestyles of the rich and famous from a college basketball standpoint."

Being the underdog is exactly what these players are used to.

They'll get the chance to prove everyone wrong again on Saturday, and have the always-rare chance to beat two No. 1 seeds en route to the championship game.

What Wichita State lacks in shooting they make up for with discipline, fundamental rebounding, offensive principles and timely scoring from young players. The return of Ron Baker to the lineup and emergence of fellow freshman Fred Van Vleet have given the Shockers an outside scoring threat in an otherwise paltry offensive scheme.

That's not to say Wichita State can't score.

The inside game of Carl Hall and mid-range game of Cleanthony Early are complemented nicely by the overall playmaking ability of Malcolm Armstead, who was the West Region Most Outstanding Player, to boot.

While Louisville's defense, length and experience will all be advantages over Wichita State, it's hard to discount a team that has all of the characteristics of Butler, VCU and the other mid-major teams to make it to this point in the tournament.

It certainly won't be easy.

But you get the feeling from watching Wichita State play, listening to the press conferences and learning more about the players that the mixture of castoff athletes and hungry players makes Wichita State the most dangerous team in the Final Four.

They'll be a double-digit underdog when the ball tips off in Atlanta—maybe more than the 10 currently on the board. However, place your spread and straight-up bets against Wichita State with caution on Saturday morning.

Those who have done so to this point have failed.