One sign Wichita State men’s basketball is in a golden era is that the Shockers are talking about not taking NCAA Tournament bids for granted.
“It’s a great honor; a lot of people don’t even get there one time,” senior Demetric Williams said. “For me to get there twice, it’s a humbling experience.”
Wichita State is back in the NCAA Tournament, as an at-large pick in what was expected to be a rebuilding season, with plenty of room to spare. The Shockers, 26-8 and the No. 9 seed in the West Region, will play eighth-seeded Pittsburgh, 24-8, on Thursday in Salt Lake City in the second round. The winner will play top-seeded Gonzaga, 31-2, or 16th-seeded Southern, 23-9, in the third round Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I didn’t anticipate them forgetting about us,” coach Gregg Marshall said. “I just knew that our resume was strong enough.”
Pittsburgh also received an at-large spot, losing in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. The Panthers, who will join the ACC next season, finished fourth in the Big East and compiled a power ranking (RPI) ranked No. 43.
Wichita State is No. 37 in the RPI.
In an ESPN analysis of the brackets, commentators Jay Bilas and Jay Williams described the game as a physical battle between two top rebounding teams.
“The game could be in the 50s,” Marshall said.
Other regional teams
• Creighton, which beat the Shockers in the Missouri Valley tournament championship game, is the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region and will play No. 10 Cincinnati on Friday in Philadelphia. The winner will play No. 2 seed Duke or No. 15 seed Albany on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16.
This is the last go-round for the father-son tandem of Greg and Doug McDermott; the latter is a senior All-American who is the top scorer in the NCAA over the last three seasons combined. This also is the Big East-bound program’s last season in the Missouri Valley, which the Jays joined in 1928.
• Saint Louis got a No. 4 seed in the Midwest and will play No. 13 New Mexico State on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. The winner will play either No. 5 Oklahoma State or No. 12 Oregon on Saturday for a spot in the Sweet 16.
The Billikens, 27-6, rallied after the retirement and subsequent December death of coach Rick Majerus. They captured the Atlantic-10 championship, swept Butler in three meetings and have won 15 of their last 16 games.