The moment I knew that Fred Van Vleet’s shot had missed-- I flipped the switch, I don’t know when, or if, I’ll turn the NCAA Tournament back on.
Shame on the committee---
I hate taking the following point of view, because it sounds like I’m making an excuse for Wichita State---but it was ridiculous to have the Kentucky-Wichita State matchup in the round of 32. The game had the feeling and competitiveness of an Elite Eight matchup, it’s a shame it was wasted on the first Sunday of the tournament.
Boffo box office---
The TV rating of 7.9 for the WSU-Kentucky matchup is the highest for a second round game in the last 24 years of the tournament. It should have been, you may not see a better game for the entire rest of the NCAA. The rating is made even more impressive is the fact that there were two other games on at various times against it, 24 years ago it would have been the only game on nationally.
The little things---
Lots of little things can combine to make something big. In a close game against Kentucky two things really hurt the Shockers; they were whipped on the boards for the first time this season, but they could have overcome that if that hadn’t connected on just 66.7% of their 18 free throws.
But I’m splitting hairs, the fact is that Kentucky may have played its best game of the year and that was good for a two point win. There will always be ‘what ifs’ for those who were on that floor, but the Shockers had the game winning shot in the air as the buzzer sounded…it just didn’t go in.
At some point---
---you hope these guys are able to grasp what they’ve accomplished. What they’ve come to mean to a program, their fans, their school, city and state. This season will be talked about long after we are gone, after they are gone. It really takes something to be remembered in our culture, it takes even more to be revered.
A poet once wrote---
---that nothing gold can stay. Chris Jans has already left the program for the head coaching job at Bowling Green, a great opportunity very much deserved by one of the really good guys in coaching. Cleanthony Early has turned his sights to the NBA, three other seniors will depart new recruits will come in.
That group of guys who chased perfection will never be together again in the same competitive way, but each moves to their next challenge imbued by the trust and accountability they had to one another. There will be other great teams at Wichita State; there will never be another team exactly like this one.
Coach of the Year---
Gregg Marshall is National Coach of the Year, as if that had to be voted on. It’s amazing how Marshall has continued to raise the bar in his program, consider the last four years: It started with a NIT Championship, improved to a Valley title and a fifth seed in the NCAA’s, last year’s run to the Final Four was seismic and 35-0 this year…you keep wondering what this guy can possibly do for an encore.
As coaching jobs around the country start to open, Marshall will be on many wish lists, as he has been for much of the last four years and as he will always be as long as he coaches. Gregg will be making nearly $2M for next season in salary alone, he has top flight facilities and one of the best fan bases in the country. He knows that he has everything one needs to compete for a National Championship, but there are challenges.
The Missouri Valley Conference cannot be a one bid league. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of pressure the conference office can put on its members to raise the profile of its basketball programs. While Marshall has made Wichita State a destination there will always be other programs out there with deeper pockets, better tradition and the desire to do whatever it takes to continue it. GM won’t leave WSU for anything other than a turnkey operation that allows him to win at the highest level and you can count those jobs on two hands.