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Shockers will disrupt a blue-bood laden national semifinal
Wichita State will be the party crasher.
The Shockers defeated Ohio State 70-66 to advance to the Final Four and ensure the teams competing for the national title will have an outsider among them yet again.
Syracuse clinched a spot in the Final Four earlier Saturday, and the other two teams will come down to former champions (Duke or Louisville and Florida or Michigan).
But Wichita State, the second-place team in the Missouri Valley this year, joined the ranks of VCU, Butler and George Mason in recent years to upend the college basketball power structure.
At first Saturday, Gregg Marshall’s team looked like it would cruise to a win Saturday. Wichita State led by 20 with 11:01 remaining, but Ohio State clawed its way back to a four-point deficit in the final minutes.
What carried Wichita State all season, though, sealed the Final Four trip. The Shockers were one of the best rebounding teams in the country all year and continued to own the glass during this year’s run.
An offensive rebound ended Ohio State’s surge when Tekele Cotton grabbed a teammate's missed three-pointer, which translated to a basket by Fred VanVleet to open an insurmountable six-point lead with a minute to go.
Wichita State will be a fitting addition to the narrative of mid-majors reaching the Final Four. Its roster is littered with success stories: Carl Hall, a force in the paint, has uses medication to cope with a heart condition that has caused him to pass during games in high school and junior college. Small-town guard Ron Baker missed 21 games with a foot injury to become the Shockers’ most well-rounded player. The roster is led by a junior college transfer (Cleanthony Early) and a Division I transfer (Malcolm Armstead from Oregon).
And the Shockers' coach, Gregg Marshall, is a big-time personality who hasn't grabbed a big-time job despite eight NCAA tournament apperances in 15 seasons as a head coach at Winthrop and Wichita State.
Of historical note:
► Wichita State is making its first Final Four since 1965, when the Shockers lost 108-89 to UCLA for John Wooden’s second national title. Wichita State then lost a national third place game 118-82 to a Princeton team led by Bill Bradley.
► Wichita State is the first Missouri Valley team to reach the Final Four since Larry Bird led Indiana State to the 1979 title game against a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State team.
► The Shockers are the fourth team seeded in the bottom half of the bracket (ninth or lower) to reach the Final Four since the field expanded in 1985. Wichita State joins 2011 VCU, 2006 George Mason and 1986 LSU. Besides Wichita State, all three were No. 11 seeds.
► Wichita State and 1986 LSU were the only two teams in that group of four to reach the national semifinals to defeat the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds in their region. Wichita State defeated No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Ohio State. LSU in 1986 defeated No. 2 Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16 and No. 1 Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
► Among notable teams to reach the national semifinal as a Missouri Valley team: Oklahoma A&M/Oklahoma State (won titles in 1945-46) Cincinnati (won titles in 1961-62), Louisville and Memphis.