What started as a chip on Gregg Marshall’s shoulder is now a stack of wood that could warm a skyscraper during winter’s cold.
But Marshall wasn’t fuming after Wichita State was announced Sunday as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In fact, he was humming CBS’ college basketball theme song before taking questions from the media a half-hour after seeing the Shockers’ fate — they will play 7-seed Dayton in Indianapolis on Friday — come up on the TV screen.
Marshall, who has gone to the chip on his shoulder dozens of times during his life as a player and coach, sees this is as business as usual.
“It’s all I know,” he said. “I’m just glad (the selection committee) didn’t forget about us. I was starting to think they might forget us and not put us in at all.”
Marshall is numb to these seedings by now. He’ll take the 10, run with it and preach disrespect to his team. It’s worked before.
Don’t think Marshall was really in a humming mood after the Shockers came up at 10. This is a team on a 15-game winning streak, one that is 30-4 and is ranked high in many of the polls that use metrics. Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin love the Shockers. So does the ESPN’s BPI system that’s way too complicated for me to explain but has Wichita State at No. 15.
In the country.
You have to climb all the way to the 7 seeds to find a team with a higher BPI than the Shockers — St. Mary’s at No. 12.
I figured Marshall might be fuming, especially considering the Shockers, even if they beat Dayton, would likely play Kentucky in the second round.
Instead, he’s adopted a “what am I supposed to do?” mentality about these things, at least publicly. Privately, when his team is around him, the chip comes out.
And it’s effective because college basketball players are transient. They stay, they go and a new batch comes in. Plus, Marshall has a way of recruiting players who maybe weren’t as highly recruited as expected or who come from junior colleges and were told they had little opportunity of becoming Division I players.
“I think a lot of our guys come in like that, with that chip,” redshirt freshman guard Landry Shamet said. “I know I kind of had that being in high school in Kansas City, being somewhat overlooked there. I feel everybody on this team came in with that chip on their shoulder, so it’s always there.”
So maybe instead of fans worrying about how the Shockers are going to be undervalued or figuratively slapped in their faces, they should relish the mindset of Marshall and his team. And doesn’t the whole chip-on-the-shoulder thing fit for Wichita, too?
We’re undervalued. Let’s be honest here. If there was a selection committee handing out bids to America’s cities, Wichita would surely be an 11 or 12.
Yet we know better. We know Wichita can beat a 5 or a 6 on any given day and occasionally pull off even a bigger upset.
Really, does 7 or 10 matter all that much?
When the Shockers reached the Final Four in 2013, they were a 9 and knocked out Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State to get to Atlanta. It was a fun, unexpected ride that included a win over a No. 1 seed.
Check out the path this season. It starts with Dayton, then could include Kentucky, UCLA and North Carolina, who have combined for 24 national championships. UCLA (11) and Kentucky (8) rank first and second in titles.
The chip on Wichita State’s shoulder can definitely be useful, but we should also take some time to think about what could be. You can decide on your own what the Shockers’ chances are in the stacked South Regional, but what fun this could be.
Or it might end Friday with a loss to Dayton.
Marshall did emphasize that the Shockers have reached the NCAA Tournament now six years in a row. It’s been an incredible run, regardless of Wichita State’s occasional qualms with seeding.
WSU has a really good team that was held down some this season because of its lack of quality wins and by playing in the Missouri Valley Conference, which has seen better days. It’s telling that Illinois State, co-champion of the MVC regular season with Wichita State, was not among the 68-team NCAA Tournament field.
If the Valley hasn’t bottomed out, it’s worrisome to think of how much lower the conference could go.
Those concerns, though, are for another day. Wichita State is going to another NCAA Tournament and while a No. 10 seed doesn’t fit what we’ve seen from this team over the course of the season, there’s nothing to do about it now.
Oh wait, there is.
This is where the chip comes into play. Marshall will tell his team what a bunch of losers the selection committee thinks they are and they’ll come out Friday breathing fire.
You stay with what works.