Shocker fans get chance to experience Final Four excitement up close

It takes a lot to halt sales at Tad’s Locker Room these days.

Monday, the 40 or so fans buying Wichita State University apparel at the east-side sporting goods store stepped out of line to gather around WSU basketball coach Gregg Marshall during his live appearance on "The Gregg Marshall Show" on KNSS radio.

Business has been booming at Tad’s – and at other apparel stores in Wichita – during the Shockers’ run through the NCAA Tournament. WSU will play Louisville on Saturday in the Final Four in Atlanta.

The shop received three shipments of Final Four T-shirts on Monday, making collector’s items out of the Elite Eight shirts sold earlier during the weekend. There might be a National Championship shirt if WSU can pull off two more victories Saturday and Monday.

"We had to close the store for an hour in the middle of the day (Sunday) because we sold out of everything we had," said Tessa Gehrer, an employee at Tad’s.

The break while Marshall spoke with WSU play-by-play announcer Mike Kennedy was welcomed by Tad’s employees. His appearance also offered fans who haven’t been traveling with the team a chance to experience up close the excitement of WSU’s unlikely tournament run.

This version of Marshall’s show with Kennedy was unlike many others this season because Marshall was never second-guessed. A staple of these kind of programs, especially those that allow questions from passionate fans, are questions about why so-and-so doesn’t get much playing time or why the coach is playing zone defense instead of man-to-man.

That didn’t happen Monday, as fans lined up at the store or called in over the phone to offer Marshall congratulations on leading WSU to the Final Four for the first time since 1965.

“It’s amazing how much smarter you get when you win a few games like these,” Kennedy said.

Fans chuckled when Marshall made a light-hearted comment. They listened intently when he said Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early, who briefly left Saturday’s game against Ohio State with injuries, were on track to play this weekend. They got some inside scoop when Marshall said Shocker legend Antoine Carr would likely travel to Atlanta.

During the question-and-answer session, Jacob Setzer offered Marshall part of the sales commission he earns working for two radio stations and a percentage of the tips he collects as a bartender at Crestview Country Club to help convince the highly sought-after Marshall to stay at WSU.

Setzer also asked Marshall to address the idea – apparently perpetuated by some of Setzer’s friends who root for Kansas and Kansas State – that WSU reached the Final Four only because it was in the less-difficult West Region of the bracket.

“At this point I would chalk that up to sour grapes,” said Marshall, whose team beat the top two seeds in the West – Gonzaga and Ohio State – to advance.

“Wichita has a huge community base that supports Shocker basketball,” Setzer said. “I feel like it’s definitely going to continue, and hopefully we get more people to jump on the bandwagon – especially all these KU and K-State fans.

“I hope we get their support, too, because this is not just a Wichita thing. It’s a Kansas thing.”

Shocker fans have backed the team since the tournament started. Some drove to early round games in Salt Lake City, and a charter flight showed up for the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. Fans were even waiting at Koch Arena at 4 a.m. Sunday when the team arrived in Wichita from Los Angeles.

The fans listening to Marshall’s radio show got an unexpected jolt from the coach.

“CBS is not going to carry our game live because we didn’t sell all of our tickets," Marshall told the suddenly distraught crowd. “It’s going to be tape-delayed.

“April Fools, right?”

Actually, WSU still has “a very limited” number of tickets to the Final Four left, university officials said Monday.

Those tickets will be offered first to those on the university’s waiting list, such as season ticket holders. If there are any tickets left over, they will be sold at the WSU ticket office starting at noon Tuesday.

However, WSU officials don’t anticipate there will be enough tickets to accommodate even those on the waiting list.

The university’s alumni association has filled three charter airplanes for fans headed to Atlanta for the Final Four. About 450 people will go on the charter trips, which will leave Friday and return Tuesday.

Connie White, of the WSU Alumni Association, said there was not enough interest to fill a fourth plane.

It wasn’t clear Monday evening how many Shocker fans were making their own arrangements to travel to Atlanta.

White said the alumni office will now turn its attention to scheduling parties and events for alumni while they are in Atlanta.

Contributing: Dan Voorhis of The Eagle

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