Shockers Return to the NCAA Tournament

All season long, Wichita State has put its fans through the emotional ringer, winning close game after close game. Why should Selection Sunday be any different?

The Shockers survived a potential bubble-bursting loss to Cincinnati in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference semifinals and last-minute raids from various “bid-thieves” to secure one of the final at-large berths in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.

No. 11 seed WSU is headed to the First Four where it will face fellow-No. 11 Drake on Thursday, Mar. 18. Venue, times and television information will be announced later this evening.

About the Shockers:
Picked seventh in preseason, Wichita State (16-5, 11-2) won the American Athletic Conference regular season championship for the first time since joining the league four years ago.

The Shockers are 10-2 in two-possession games. All but three contests against D-I foes have been decided by 10-points-or-less in either direction.

The Shockers played shorthanded in their first three games – all against 2021 NCAA tournament squads — due to COVID-19 protocol, but they’ve rebounded from a 1-2 start with wins in 14 of their last 17.

WSU endured 10 postponements or cancelations during its conference season – all after COVID-19 positives at opposing schools.

WSU in the NCAA Tournament:
The Shockers have now qualified for eight of the last nine NCAA tournaments. They made seven-straight appearances from 2012-18 and advanced to the 2019 NIT semifinals. WSU was a consensus at-large pick for the 2020 NCAA tournament among the nation’s many bracketologists prior to its cancelation.

This is WSU’s 16th NCAA appearance all-time. The Shockers are 18-16 all-time with Final Four appearances in 1965 and 2013.

No experience required:
While WSU is no stranger to March Madness, the majority of its roster is. No current Shockers have taken part in an NCAA tournament game. Senior walk-ons Brycen Bush and Jacob Herrs are the only holdovers from WSU’s 2018 squad, which earned a No. 4 seed.

WSU in the First Four:
The Shockers are in the tournament’s play-in round for the second time. The 2016 team was the second-to-last selected despite piling up 24 regular season wins and winning the MVC regular season title by four full games. Led by senior All-Americans Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, those Shockers dismantled Vanderbilt, 70-50, to earn a spot in the main bracket. WSU led No. 6 seed Arizona by as many as 24 points in an eventual 65-55 win but ran out of steam in the second round against No. 3 seed Miami.

WSU at Mackey Arena:
The Shockers last played at Purdue’s Mackey Arena 42 year ago. WSU is winless in two previous trips (both road games against the Boilermakers) in December, 1986 and December, 1988.

Some Assembly Required:
The Shockers’ only previous visit to Assembly Hall also came in the postseason. WSU defeated host Indiana in the 2019 NIT quarterfinals, 73-63, to punch its ticket Madison Square Garden.

WSU vs. Drake:
The Shockers have faced former MVC rival Drake more than any other team in their history. WSU leads the series 104-47 and has won the last 11 meetings. The Shockers have not faced another MVC school since leaving for the American Athletic Conference four years ago.

Coach for the Year of the Year:
Isaac Brown is the first rookie head coach to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament since Wisconsin’s Greg Gard in 2016. Notably, Gard and Brown both began their respective seasons as interim head coach before winning the permanent job.

Brown, who was named interim head coach on Nov. 17 after Gregg Marshall’s resignation, is the American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and one of eight finalists for Joe B. Hall Award, given to college basketball’s top first-year head coach. WSU exchanged his interim tag for a five-year contract on Feb. 26.

Brown was a part of six NCAA tournament teams in 18 years as an assistant coach, including four times at WSU (2015-18), and once-each at Arkansas (2008) and South Alabama (2006).

Brown becomes the third Shocker head coach to lead WSU to an NCAA tournament in his first season at the helm, joined by Eddie Fogler (1987) and Gary Thompson (1965).

Brown’s winning percentage (.762) is the highest by a first-year Shocker head coach in the program’s modern era, topping Fogler .667 (22-11).

Powered by Tyson:
On the court, WSU is led by Tyson Etienne, the American Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year. Etienne averages 17.0 points and 3.1 threes-per-game (14th nationally) on 39.9 percent accuracy.

The Chosen One:
Point guard Alterique Gilbert (10.3 ppg, 4.1 apg) earned third team all-conference honors. The redshirt senior and former McDonald’s All-American will get his first taste of postseason play after suffering three season-ending injuries and one COVID shutdown during his four years at UConn. He transferred to WSU last spring in search of a fresh start.

No Fly Zone:
WSU ranks among the national leaders in field goal percentage defense (27th, .403) and three-point defense (16th, .295).

Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament:
1964 – Ralph Miller — 1-1, Regional Finalist
1965 – Gary Thompson – 2-2, Final Four (4th Place)
1976 – Harry Miller – 0-1, Round of 32
1981 [6] – Gene Smithson – 3-1, Elite Eight
1985 [11] – Gene Smithson – 0-1, Round of 64
1987 [11] – Eddie Fogler – 0-1, Round of 64
1988 [12] – Eddie Fogler – 0-1, Round of 64
2006 [7] – Mark Turgeon –2-1, Sweet 16
2012 [5] – Gregg Marshall – 0-1, Sweet 16
2013 [9] – Gregg Marshall – 4-1, Final Four
2014 [1] – Gregg Marshall – 1-1, Round of 32
2015 [7] – Gregg Marshall – 2-1, Sweet 16
2016 [11] – Gregg Marshall – 2-1, Round of 32
2017 [10] – Gregg Marshall – 1-1, Round of 32
2018 [4] – Gregg Marshall – 0-1, Round of 64
2021 [11] – Isaac Brown