ST. LOUIS — It was a new scene for Wichita State basketball, yet a familiar one at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
The postgame news conference for the losing team is an emotional affair. Disappointed players and a disappointed coach are dragged into the interview room to reveal their pain publicly.
The consolation that the loser's season isn't over doesn't seem like much on this day. Wichita State, a 67-52 loser to Northern Iowa on Sunday, is likely a high seed in the NIT. All the Shockers, in their first title game since 1987, thought about was the NCAA Tournament.
"I know we'll be playing somewhere in some tournament," WSU senior Clevin Hannah said. "We will just wait it out and see where we stand."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Hannah, red-eyed on the podium, is WSU's lone senior. The Shockers improved their NCAA Tournament resume this weekend, but will likely fall two or three wins short of earning an at-large spot.
"I'd love to get an opportunity to coach Clevin Hannah in an NCAA Tournament, but I'll coach in the NCAA Tournament again," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "I just wish that he got an opportunity, because he's a special little player."
WSU will find out its next assignment on Sunday. The NCAA selects 34 at-large teams to fill its 65-team field. The NIT, owned and operated by the NCAA, fills its 32-team field next. It begins March 16 and 17 at campus sites. Higher seeds play at home until the semifinals move to New York. WSU, with a 25-9 record and an RPI of No. 43 entering Sunday, could be one of the top four seeds.
"This was kind of a letdown to play in anything less than the NCAA Tournament," WSU forward J.T. Durley said. "But we'll play somewhere, anywhere we can play."
Marshall's job is to make the NIT look attractive after Sunday's disappointment.
"You become a little bit of a psychologist at this time in my situation," he said. "It's my job now to get them back up because we'll be playing somewhere against somebody that's going to be a good basketball team."
WSU sophomore Garrett Stutz pondered all of Sunday's emotions and revealed the lesson.
"Just remember the feeling and how bad it sucks," he said. "Just remember that through the off-season and do anything you can not to be feeling this again."