Wichita State’s 2010 loss in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title game doomed it to the NIT. The feeling is much different after Sunday’s loss.
The Shockers, although disappointed, are confident they will receive an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament. Most bracket projections slot the Shockers as a No. 9 or No 10 seed. ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi, on Friday, placed WSU as No. 10 seed in Auburn Hill, Mich. Jerry Palm’s projection at CBSSports.com, updated Sunday, puts WSU a No. 11 seed in Lexington, Ky.
“Disappointed that they didn’t get to cut the nets down today,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “We didn’t get this one. Now we’ll see if we can advance in the NCAA Tournament.”
The Shockers (26-8) dropped to No. 40 in the power rankings (RPI) after the defeat, a place that could change as other conference tournaments play out this week. WSU is 3-2 against top 50 teams and 8-5 against the top 100. Its worst loss was to No. 192 Southern Illinois. Those credentials should make the Shockers safe on Sunday when the NCAA selection committee announces its 68-team field and 37 at-large picks.
That reality makes the loss to Creighton slightly less gloomy.
“I’m ready,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “I’m excited. I’m excited for my teammates and my family. Just sitting on the bench (last season), it was a remarkable experience, just how they treated you.”
The Shockers should make back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time since 1987 and 1988 under coach Eddie Fogler.
“This has been a lifetime dream for me,” WSU guard Malcolm Armstead said.
WSU will practice this week before finding out its NCAA destination. Games begin March 19 in Dayton with No. 12 seeds and No. 16 seeds playing to enter the second round at other sites. Second-round games begin March 21.
In less than a week, the tournament loss will fade away in the excitement of a spot in the bracket. Until then, Sunday’s game can serve the same purpose as every other game.
“It would be silly to dismiss it,” freshman guard Fred VanVleet said. “You’ve got to put things in perspective and see what you did wrong and how you can get better. We’ve got to get back on track.”
Creighton, which earned the MVC’s automatic bid, is in the same position.
“We’re going to celebrate here for a little bit, then go back to practice next week and see how far we can take ourselves in the NCAA Tournament,” Creighton guard Jahenns Manigat said.