By: Adam Knapp
KWCH 12 Eyewitness Sports
7:58 PM CST, February 23, 2013
Gregg Marshall thinks Wichita State might already be in the NCAA Tournament. He’s pretty sure Saturday didn’t hurt.
His Shockers beat the run-and-gun Detroit Titans at their own game, 94-79, in the final installment of the annual made-for-TV undertaking known as “BracketBusters.” ESPN created the event in 2004, with the idea that matching up good teams from mid-majors would give them more national exposure and improve their NCAA at-large resume.
Did it work? Marshall thinks so.
“A lot of folks at ESPN picked Detroit to beat us,” Marshall said. “They didn’t think we could play at that pace. So now that rumor’s dispelled. The bottom line is, some guys probably got to lay eyes on us that haven’t been able to do that. It gets you on a national stage against another good team.”
WSU took a rating percentage index of 35 into the game. Detroit’s was 63.
“It’s a top 100 win, and they have a great shot at winning their league,” Marshall said. “They’re a team you will see in the NCAA Tournament – a team like them, if not them.
“And if we’re not in, we’re closing in on an NCAA Tournament bid right now.”
Selection Sunday, however, is an inexact science. As one skeptic noted when BracketBusters first started, if ESPN were interested in creating an event that truly busted brackets, the network would entice teams from major conferences to take on mid-majors in February. Not easy, or likely. In December, ESPN announced it would be discontinuing BracketBusters.
Still, Marshall feels BracketBusters has treated his teams well – at WSU, and Winthrop before that. Over the years, the Shockers have been matched up with NCAA Cinderellas like Davidson, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason.
Could the Shockers be one of those teams this season? Maybe. They stunned their doubters Saturday by shooting 55 percent against a team had won six of seven going into the game. They were unselfish and disciplined, totaling 21 assists with just nine turnovers.
“The pace was too fast for us,” Detroit coach Ray McCallum said.
That comment stunned Marshall, whose team hadn’t topped the 90-point mark since … well, last year’s BracketBusters game against Cleveland State.
“I watched them (on tape) and I was terrified with how fast they played and how well they got out in transition,” Marshall said. “And that’s how they play normally.”
In the end, both coaches agreed WSU’s depth was the difference. The Shockers had four players in double figures: Malcolm Armstead (20 points, six assists), Carl Hall (18 points, seven rebounds), Cleanthony Early (18 points, seven rebounds) and Demetric Williams (14 points).
They shrugged off a second-half Detroit rally – the Titans got within one, 63-62, with 12:37 remaining – with just enough defensive stops.
“We like playing that way ourselves,” Williams said. “The thing is, you usually don’t have to guard that long.”
A scout from the Utah Jazz was on hand to watch McCallum’s son, also named Ray. He responded by scoring 29 points, making 11 of 20 shots.
(McCallum’s) son is dynamite,” Marshall said. “Their problem was their depth, compared us.”
After losing three straight games, the Shockers (24-5) have now won their last five.
Caught up in the moment - Marshall admits he enjoyed the excitement of the game’s brisk pace, and at one point told his players they were on pace to score 120 points.
“It reminded me of the (1980s Los Angeles) Lakers and Showtime versus the Phoenix Suns in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s,” Marshall said. “It was big-time scoreboard lighting. I wasn’t (necessarily) fond of that, but we can it. … It’s really a joy to go out and play that style.”
Now, WSU has two games remaining in the Missouri Valley Conference, including Wednesday, when Evansville comes to town.
“That’ll be the total opposite,” Marshall said. “That’ll be like rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots.”
Party foul - Marshall jokingly said the Shockers actually had 10 turnovers – the last one being when he spilled a drink while during an interview on the radio table.
“That was probably the worst decision of the day,” Marshall said. “… Some of the turnovers were silly ones that we could avoid, but (nine) is a pretty good number.”
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