The NCAA selection committee added a neutral-court game to the Wichita State-Virginia Commonwealth series. They will meet on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Portland, Ore.
That is fine with the Shockers, who want to even things at 1-1. VCU won at Koch Arena last season in a BracketBusters game that helped the Rams start their run to the Final Four and relegate the Shockers to the NIT.
They meet again, and only of them will survive as this season’s darling from a nonpower six conference.
“It’s an interesting matchup, just because of the game last year,” said Wichita State senior Garrett Stutz, a former North Kansas City standout.
Wichita State will also play VCU next season in a BracketBusters rematch.
“You’re talking about 13, 14 months ago they weren’t on our schedule at all,” Stutz said. “Now they’re on three times in three years.”
The NCAA selection committee rewarded Wichita State, 27-5, for its regular-season Missouri Valley Conference championship with a No. 5 seed. Then it handed the Shockers a red-hot No. 12 seed. VCU, 28-6, won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, capping a stretch in which it won 17 of 18 games.
The Rams run and press with great enthusiasm, a style of play they brand as Havoc. Shockers coach Gregg Marshall compared the Rams to Alabama, a team Wichita State beat in the 2011 NIT and lost to in November in Puerto Rico.
“It’s going to be a lot of athletes,” Marshall said. “They have a style that’s unique. They’re on a streak. We’ll have to start a streak.”
Wichita State coaches and players watched Sunday’s selection show with around 1,400 fans at Koch Arena. It did not take long for the Shockers to pop up on the screen. Should Wichita State defeat VCU, it will play either No. 4 seed Indiana or No. 13 New Mexico State on Saturday. The winner heads to Atlanta for the Sweet 16.
Valley tournament champion Creighton is a No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region and plays No. 9 Alabama in Greensboro, N.C.
Missouri State, which finished 16-16 after losing in the Valley quarterfinals, declined to play in the postseason.