Gonzaga v Wichita State

Wichita State, better when they’re the underdog?

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Wichita State is the latest in a long line of recent Cinderellas that have played their way into the Final Four.

It started with George Mason in 2006, when the Patriots made a run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. It continued in 2011, when No. 11 seed VCU reached the Final Four along with No. 8 seed Butler, the second time in as many years that the Bulldogs would reach the national title game.

But the difference with these Shockers is that they’re not a random mid-major program that happened to get hot at the right time.

Wichita State is a good basketball team. They were 15-1 at one point this season. They were ranked as high as 15th at one point this season.

But they don’t like looking at themselves that way

“It’s interesting, our team, the coaching staff, we’ve talked, we’re better all year long when we’re the underdog, when nothing is expected,” Marshall said on today’s Final Four teleconference.

It’s ironic, really. Wichita State has been better when they’re the hunter this season, not when they’re the hunted.

It started at the beginning of the year, when not much was expected out of this team. They had lost their starting five from a season ago and were more-or-less an afterthought in the Missouri Valley, a league Creighton was picked to win.

They were 9-0 and in the top 15 when they lost to Tennessee. They were 23rd when they lost to Evansville in their fourth league game. And right when they were on the precipice of climbing back into the Final Four, they lost again, this time dropping three in a row and five of their last 10 regular season games.


“This team has done better when nothing has been expected, when they’re the underdogs, which we’ll clearly be on Saturday,” Marshall said.

Maybe Wichita State has Louisville right where they want them.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.