Clevin Hannah had a chance to prevent all this drama. If he grabs the ball, there is no clock controversy, no game-winning shot by Creighton's Booker Woodfox and no commissioner Doug Elgin standing in a Scottrade Center hall trying to explain what happened.
Hannah, Wichita State's senior guard, knows all that. That's why last season's Missouri Valley Conference Tournament loss to Creighton remains a cold spot in his memory.
"It stuck with me, because all I had to do was grab that ball before it went out of bounds and the game would have been over," Hannah said. "It sticks with me, every day as I come to practice, to go play a better game."
WSU (14-2, 3-1 MVC) and Creighton (7-8, 2-2) meet again today, and that chapter of the rivalry adds another dose of passion.
The Shockers may be without sophomore center Garrett Stutz, a reserve who averages 7.9 points. He injured his left knee during Friday's practice. Stutz ended his workout by walking gingerly on it for several minutes, then sitting with an ice bag.
WSU coach Gregg Marshall said he was unsure of the extent of the injury. Stutz was scheduled to undergo an MRI early Friday evening.
"He said he came down on it funny," Marshall said.
Just what this game doesn't need — more drama. The Shockers entered their locker room the past three days walking past a newspaper clipping detailing the 63-62 loss to the Bluejays last March in St. Louis. Everybody remembers WSU's brilliant rally from a 22-point deficit, J.T. Durley's 15 second-half points and Toure Murry's go-ahead shot. In Hannah's mind, that should be where the story ends.
After Murry's three-pointer gave WSU a 62-61 lead with nine seconds to play, Creighton's Antoine Young rushed up court and threw up an off-balance shot. It bounced in front of Hannah near the basket.
"There was more time than I thought," Hannah said. "I relaxed."
When Hannah realized the game wasn't over, he reached for the ball.
"I kind of fumbled it out of bounds," he said.
That gave the ball to Creighton with 1.9 seconds to play, and all the controversy started. Woodfox made a shot after the clock started late and may or may not have needed more than 1.9 seconds to do so. The referees watched a replay and added and subtracted before they counted the basket and the Bluejays celebrated like crazy.
The Shockers felt they got a raw deal, and after hours of watching film, Elgin sympathized and admitted mistakes were made.
"It was darn close," he said in May. "That shot was much closer to the buzzer than it initially appeared."
Which was pretty much Marshall's point all along.
"What I didn't like is the fact that, initially, everybody acted like there was no problem on (Woodfox's) shot," Marshall said. "Then, with further review, there were some problems, there were definitely some problems with how things were handled in terms of the management of the game and the post-game."
So now they meet again, with that game and many other heated ones adding to that atmosphere. Elgin didn't realize the connection between today's date and the clock controversy last March. WSU fans noticed. It's a game to avenge the indignity of 1.9 on 1-9.
The MVC scheduling computer doesn't have a sense of humor.
"That's a ridiculous question," Elgin said. "It's coincidence."
Both teams are weighing the affect of emotion today on the players and the crowd.
"If that had happened to us, you know how'd we be," Creighton junior Casey Harriman said. "Coach (Dana Altman) would be so gung-ho about this game. I don't think we realize (how fired up WSU is going to be) yet, and we need to address that. We pretty much stole it from them at the MVC."
Marshall said his players can use the tournament game for motivation if they want. Rest assured, his private speeches are more fiery.
"We dealt with it," he said. "We accepted it. We went home. That was a long time ago."
The players say there is a balance between motivation and crazed intensity.
"We want to stay level-headed," Murry said. "But we are motivated to get back at them for what happened at the tournament. I wish we could go back in time and change it. (Woodfox) made a good shot, and you've got to move on."
For WSU, moving on isn't likely to happen until there is some payback.