The Louisville Cardinals play the Wichita State Shockers on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament national semi-final, begging a question—who is Wichita State, anyway?
They’re not a renown powerhouse like the other Final Four teams, Louisville, Syracuse and Michigan, though the program did once appear in the Final Four. In 1965.
Louisville Coach Rick Pitino isn’t taking the Shockers lightly, of course. He said in a recent news conference that guard Kevin Ware’s injury will force him to think hard about strategy.
“We’re playing Wichita State, who is one of the better teams I’ve seen,” Pitino said on Wednesday. “They’re a great basketball team—a great defensive team, a great offensive team. A great shot-blocking team, rebounding.”
The Shockers are ranked No. 38 in the RPIs (Louisville is No. 3). Led by junior forward Cleanthony Early and senior forward Carl Hall, Wichita State finished second in the Missouri Valley conference 26-8 record going into the NCAA Tournament. In the tournament, Wichita State has beaten No. 1 seed Gonzaga, No. 2 seed Pittsburgh, No. 13 seed La Salle and No. 8 seed Pittsburgh.
This week, Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall dismissed the idea that they are, in the parlance of college basketball writers, a Cinderella story.
“Cinderella found one glass slipper,” Marshall said in a recent teleconference. “We won four games. So I don’t think she found four glass slippers. Cinderella usually wins a game or two. Much like Butler a couple seasons ago, when you get to this point, you’re good enough to win it all.”
Avoiding turnovers against the Cardinals tenacious defense will be a key, Marshall said.
Wichita State is an underdog for Saturday’s game, but college basketball analysts say the Shockers have a shot at upsetting the Cardinals.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish writes:
The Shockers have already topped the team that was ranked No. 1 in the AP poll on Selection Sunday (Gonzaga) and the team that won the conference tournament for the nation’s toughest league (Ohio State). And if you can do those two things, you can do anything, right? Beyond that, there’s not a single school left (including Louisville) that hasn’t lost to somebody worse than Wichita State. So is it a long shot? Yes. But don’t let anybody tell you it’s impossible.
One last thing.
What’s a Shocker? And what’s up with their mascot, WuShock?
The team’s manager chose the name because many of the players earned money during the off season harvesting (or “shocking”) wheat in the surrounding fields.
When it came time to bring the name to life, students created WuShock – a big, bad, muscle-bound bundle of wheat – whose name was derived from a period in time when the university was simply known as Wichita University or WU.