Kelly Olynyk Gonzaga

No. 1 Gonzaga Shocked by No. 9 Wichita State

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The last time Gonzaga had lost, we were only three weeks into 2013. That is no more.

No. 9-seeded Wichita State climbed back from an eight-point second half deficit to upset No. 1-seeded Gonzaga, 76-70, knocking off the first No. 1 seed of the tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16 in the process at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday night.

Wichita State used 50 shooting from the field, including 14-of-26 shooting from three-point range to erase that deficit and take the lead, 64-63, with 3:10 to play. That was made possible by three-pointers on back-to-back-to-back possessions over a three-minute span that ignited the Shockers’ offense.

Among those three-point shooters were Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early, both of whom were 4-of-6 from three-point range on the night. That impressive shooting night comes after shooting 2-of-20 as a team in the Round of 64 against Pittsburgh.

Gonzaga could not survive the upset despite grabbing 20 offensive rebounds on the night. Wichita State did a fine job of bothering big man and National Player of the Year candidate Kelly Olynyk, who needed 22 shots to score 26 points on the night. They also concentrated the offensive production in the hands of three players: Olynyk, Kevin Pangos, and Elias Harris. Those three combined for 81 percent of the team’s scoring.

Gonzaga becomes the third No. 1 seed in the past four years to lose in the Round of 32 and the first No. 1 seed to be eliminated from this 2013 NCAA tournament. And that comes after perhaps the shakiest performance by a No. 1 seed in the Round of 64, when No. 16-seed Southern ran the Bulldogs to the wire Thursday evening.

Lapses on the perimeter hurt Gonzaga and three-point shooting like it endured Saturday is not easily reconciled, even when rebounding on the offensive boards at a rate that they did.

For Gonzaga, it means another pre-Elite Eight elimination, meaning Dan Monson remains the only head coach to lead the Bulldogs past the Sweet 16.

This Round of 32 loss does little to substantiate the calls for more respect to be given to this batch of mid-major teams on the West Coast that came throughout the season. Those calls grew louder when Gonzaga reached No. 1 in the national polls. Of the seven teams from the Mountain West and West Coast Conference that made the NCAA tournament, only San Diego State has a chance to make it to the Sweet 16. The Aztecs tip off against No. 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday at 7:10 p.m.

That series of losses includes No. 3 New Mexico in an upset to No. 14 Harvard in the Round of 64, UNLV, and Saint Mary’s in that same round, as well as Boise State in the First Four and Colorado State in the Round of 32.

The Gonzaga loss could have one other lasting effect on the NCAA tournament: No. 1 seeding for mid-major schools. With this memory of Bulldog loss, there could be some hesitancy to hand another non-BCS school a No. 1 seed. The ironic part is, though, that many may fail to remember that it was a mid-major who eliminated that mid-major No. 1.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.