March Madness is upon us once again and Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall is again getting a lot of attention. Last year it was for making a surprising run to the Final Four and giving eventual champion Louisville all they wanted. This year Marshall was on SportsCenter discussing the gauntlet of a bracket that his Shockers will face if they want to make another deep run.
Oh and almost no one asks for favors. Louisville coach Rick Pitino politicked for a No. 1 seed after the Cardinals beat Connecticut all the while saying that he wasn’t politicking. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski promptly lobbied (successfully) for North Carolina State to be in the tournament right after bouncing the Wolfpack from the ACC tourney, but I digress.
Marshall said all the right things. Maybe some of it was coach speak, maybe some of it was real talk. There will be tough teams and tough games ahead, there’s no getting around it. This fact is not lost on Marshall.
At 34-0, Wichita State deserved a No. 1 seed. Did they have to put all of those other strong squads in the Midwest Region with them? That’s up for debate. Let’s take a small glance at a fraction of what may lie ahead. Anything is possible, but I don’t anticipate them making dubious history by losing to the No. 16 seed. They will take care of the winner of the Cal Poly-Texas Southern play-in game.
After that they get the winner of the No. 8 seed Kentucky Wildcats or No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats. If Kentucky is right they can play with anyone. That was evidenced by their pushing the Florida Gators to the limit in the SEC Tournament championship game over the weekend. As we know, consistency has eluded this UK team all season long. However, if they come to play, Kentucky’s size and talent would give Wichita State problems.
If Kansas State advanced don’t think for a minute that they wouldn’t relish the chance to play the Shockers. Bruce Weber’s club is used to being overshadowed by Kansas. That just comes with the territory. The Jayhawks proud history, tradition and success speaks for itself. Now K-State is third fiddle in their own state having watched Wichita State pass them by over the past couple of years. The fellas from Manhattan would love to put the first loss in Wichita’s L column in the Big Dance of all places.
In the second weekend the No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals would likely be there waiting for Coach Marshall & Co. in a Final Four rematch. Granted, the Shockers no doubt want another crack at Louisville but that still doesn’t lessen the toughness of this bracket. If Louisville happens to get upset St. Louis could be there. Kansas versus Missouri, there’s no love lost between these states even if it isn’t the Jayhawks against the Tigers.
Looking ahead even further could mean facing No. 3 seed Duke or No. 2 seed Michigan, brutal.
There are upsets each and every year and there may be a few in this bracket that make it easier than it appears on paper. The Shockers could run right through this gauntlet and be in their second straight Final Four. If they do, they will have to do it the old-fashioned way, like Smith Barney, and earn it.