This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Wichita State.
They were picked to finish fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference before the season, behind Creighton, Illinois State, and Northern Iowa.
They didn’t just lose a couple players from the excellent 2011-12 team that won 27 games, their top FIVE leading scorers from last year’s team all graduated.
Forward Carl Hall was the only Shockers player to be selected to the preseason all-conference team, and even that was only “honorable mention.”
The official team preview on the conference’s website concluded:
“Wichita State will aim to fuse senior leadership with new talent in hopes of making a return to the Dance.”
So they’ve gone from a team “hoping” to make the tournament in October to a team that’s now two games away from a National Championship.
How’d they do it?
Clearly coaching has played a huge role. You don’t survive losing the top-five scorers from a nationally ranked team unless you have a coach that can recruit, develop talent, and manage the game well. Coach Gregg Marshall has done all those things.
Another reason is experience. While many these players didn’t get significant minutes last year, they still know what it’s like to play in big games and, more importantly, they expect to win big games. Wichita State was supposed to do big things last year, and all the guys who played on that team know what it’s like to be expected to win. In that way, last year’s season laid the mental groundwork for this year’s tourney run.
And the final season is simple: luck.
Wichita State hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row to get to Atlanta. They beat Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle, and Ohio State.
Pittsburgh and La Salle aren’t exactly juggernauts. And in hindsight it’s clear that Gonzaga — a team that didn’t really beat anyone all year — wasn’t as good as their No. 1 seed indicated.
The Shockers have played amazingly in this run. But it always takes a bit of luck to make the Final Four, and their luck came in the form of their relatively weak slate of opponents.
Wichita State’s run is unlikely on two levels. 1) They’re a mid-major making it to the Final Four, and 2) They’re a mid-major making it to the Final Four in a rebuilding year.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.