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Shocking the world from a low seed isn’t easy

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, April 5, 2013, at 2 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 9:02 a.m.

Allow yourself to dream for a few minutes, Shocker fan.

You may not think two more victories and a national championship is a dream. And it’s not. The way Wichita State has played these last four games, cutting down the nets on Monday night wouldn’t surprise anyone inside the city limits.

But just picture 10:30 on Monday night. Confetti falling from the Georgia Dome ceiling. Gregg Marshall answering Jim Nantz’s questions on the built-in-three-minutes stage at center court, while NCAA interns pass out championship hats and T-shirts to the Shockers.

To top it off, a replay of Carl Hall throwing the ball into the air on the final note of “One Shining Moment.”

And so would begin the greatest NCAA Tournament story ever told.

North Carolina State in ’83? Nice story.

Villanova in ’85? Footnote to history.

Kansas in ’88? Secondary.

As a No. 9 seed, Wichita State would be the lowest seed to win the NCAA Tournament.

Here are the Shockers’ brethren, the lowest-seeded teams to reach the Final Four since seeding began in 1979:

1979 (9) Pennsylvania — They only had 40 teams in the tournament in ’79 and the committee pegged the Quakers the second-worst in their region. Big Upset? Led by senior Tony Price, Penn knocked off No. 1-seed North Carolina with sophomore Al Wood in the second round. Midnight for Cinderella? The last Ivy League team in the Final Four received a 101-67 drubbing by Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans.

1980 (6) Purdue — With All-American Joe Barry Carroll, the Boilermakers shouldn’t have sneaked up on any team. Before he was tagged with the unfortunate nickname “Joe Barely Cares,” Carroll went No. 1 in the NBA Draft that year. Big Upset? The 7-footer helped Purdue past No. 2-seed Indiana in the Sweet 16. Midnight? Purdue actually lost to lower-seeded UCLA 67-62 in the semifinals.

1980 (8) UCLA — How can any UCLA team be a Cinderella? Kiki Vandeweghe led the Larry Brown-coached Bruins with 19.5 points per game. Big upset? The Bruins took out perpetual underachiever DePaul and Mark Aguirre in the round of 32. Midnight? UCLA lost to Louisville 59-54 in the championship game, but the NCAA eventually vacated the Bruins’ appearance.

1982 (6) Houston — The next season’s Goliath was a low seed in 1982. Clearly Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the Cougars were underseeded in 1982. Big Upset? Houston beat No. 2-seed Missouri in the Sweet 16. Midnight? James Worthy, Michael Jordan and North Carolina defeated Houston 68-63 in the semis.

1983 (6) North Carolina State — Just watch the “30 for 30” film that has been playing non-stop for the past month. The Wolfpack needed an unlikely run in the ACC Tournament to even reach the NCAA Tournament. Big Upset? Taking down Ralph Sampson’s Virginia squad in the Elite Eight. Midnight? Never came as for Jim Valvano’s team. Dereck Whittenburg to Lorenzo Charles will live forever in the upset win over Houston.

1984 (7) Virginia — Sampson was gone, but this was the year the Cavs make the Final Four? Why not? Rick Carlisle and Olden Polynice were future NBA players. Big Upset? Nothing remarkable, but the Cavs took out the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 seeds in the region. Midnight? A 49-47 overtime loss to Olajuwon and Houston.

1985 (8) Villanova — The Big East at the height of its power prepared the Wildcats for the NCAA Tournament. Big Upset? Villanova knocked off No. 1-seed Michigan in the second round. Midnight? Everything went right for Villanova in the championship over Georgetown. NBA player Ed Pinckney led the Wildcats to a record-setting shooting night as Nova shot 22 of 28 against Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas. The 66-64 win was Villanova’s first in three tries that season against the Hoyas.

1986 (11) LSU — The first double-digit seed to reach the Final Four, LSU was led by John “Hot Plate” Williams, who averaged 18.3 points. Big Upset? How about No. 1 Kentucky in the regional final? Or second-seeded Georgia Tech, or third-seeded Memphis? Midnight? Louisville scored 52 second-half points in the 88-77 semifinal win.

1987 (6) Providence — Back before Providence was just “another team to leave the Big East,” the Friars were coached by Rick Pitino — heard of him? Big Upset? Billy Donovan — yup, that’s the same one — scored 20 points in Providence’s 88-73 win over No. 1-seed Georgetown in the regional final. Midnight? Meeting up with Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly, Derrick Coleman and Syracuse in the Final Four.

1988 (6) Kansas — Another Cinderella with a future No. 1 overall draft pick? Yeah, that’s what the committee thought of Danny Manning’s supporting cast in Lawrence. Big Upset? A cleared-out bracket produced the ultimate Sunflower Showdown in the regional final. KU defeated Mitch Richmond and the fourth-seeded K-State Wildcats to reach the Final Four. Midnight? Manning, Kevin Pritchard, Scooter Berry, Chris Piper and Clint Normore will never have to buy a drink in Lawrence again after the Jayhawks beat Duke and Oklahoma for the title.

1992 (6) Michigan — The Fab Five made its mark, becoming the first team with five freshmen starters to reach the championship game, but before Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard got there, they had struggled through the second half of the Big Ten season. Big Upset? The Wolverines dropped No. 1-seed Ohio State in the regional final for the first time in three attempts on the season. Midnight? Duke won its second straight title in convincing fashion, beating Michigan 71-51.

2000 (8) North Carolina — With an 18-13 record, some assumed the Tar Heels were headed for the NIT. Not with “North Carolina” on their chests. Big Upset? Joe Forte scored 17 points in UNC’s 60-53 second-round upset of top-seed Stanford. Midnight? Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem stopped the Heels 71-59 in the semis.

2000 (8) Wisconsin – Before Bo Ryan was grinding out wins and driving Big Ten fans crazy, Dick Bennett was doing the same for the Badgers. A sixth-place finish in the Big Ten gave them their seeding. Big Upset? A 66-59 win over the Gilbert Arenas-led Arizona Wildcats in the second round. Midnight? Michigan State beat Wisconsin for the fourth time that season in the semis.

2006 (11) George Mason — The Patriots ushered in the era of mid-major parity, getting into the tournament after a resume-boosting win at Wichita State in a BracketBusters matchup. Big Upset? Take your pick: Former champions Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn all went down to GMU, along with Wichita State, again. Midnight? Joakim Noah and Florida was much too much for Mason in the semifinals.

2011 (8) Butler — After coming oh-so-close to knocking off Duke in the championship game the year before, not many expected the Bulldogs to make it back to the Final Four after losing Gordon Hayward. Big Upset? Wins over No. 1-seeded Pittsburgh and second-seeded Florida is why Brad Stevens is always on the top of high-majors’ phone lists when they have an opening. Midnight? Butler shot an anemic 12 of 64 in a forgettable championship game loss to UConn.

2011 (11) VCU — With the addition of the First Four, VCU became the first team to have to win five games to reach the Final Four. Again, a BracketBusters win over WSU gave the Rams a much-needed RPI boost to help them in the tourney. Big Upset? KU fans can probably still see Jamie Skeen in their nightmares as he scored 26 points to knock off the 35-2 Jayhawks in the regional final. Midnight? Butler defeated VCU 70-62 in the “Don’t-call-us-Cinderella” Bowl.

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