Wichita State falls in Missouri Valley semis, has long eight days to wait

Wichita State is going to have to wait eight days to find out if it reaches the NCAA Tournament.

And given the Shockers’ resume, those eight days could be the longest of their players’ lives.

The Shockers fell to Northern Iowa 57-52 in overtime of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinals. That makes three out of four years with Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet in the backcourt that the team has failed to secure its league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

This time around, the giant killer was Wes Washpun, a second-team All-MVC selection this season at point guard who scored 20 points and dished out a pair of assists. He made the final dagger with 18 seconds left to put the Panthers up five after a Jeremy Morgan 3 gave the Panthers the lead. For their part, Baker and VanVleet largely struggled against the stout Panther defense, shooting 7-of-27 from the field while combining for only 20 points.

The Panthers move on to the MVC title game to face either Indiana State or Evansville. Evansville is the No. 2 seed, and Indiana State is the No. 6 after upsetting Illinois State last night.

As for the Shockers, they’re now in for a long wait on Selection Sunday. Simply put, their total body of work on the season isn’t quite up to par. They only have one win in the top-80 of the RPI, and are now 4-7 against teams in the top-100. That means even if you throw out the three games VanVleet was injured for in that sample, the team is still only 4-4 against top-100 competition. That’s going to make it awfully tough for the committee to select them.

However, the Shockers do have a couple of saving graces that could lead to a selection. First, they do have the injury to fall back on that occurred during Wichita’s most important stretch of the season as far as picking up quality wins. Second, Gregg Marshall’s team is one loved by advanced metrics. The Shockers came into the day 10th in KenPom, No. 20 in the Sagarin ratings, and No. 36 in the KPI rankings. That means this will be an awfully big test case for the committee, who says they have increasingly begun looking at advanced metrics. Finally, let’s not forget who this team is. The backbone of this team has been to the Final Four, gone through an entire regular season undefeated, and gone to the Sweet 16 last season.

The resume test may point to other teams, but the eye and heart test may well be in the favor of the Shockers in the minds of some committee members.

But that doesn’t mean Wichita’s next eight days will go any more smoothly as they play the waiting game.

Wichita State will now play the waiting game. (USATSI)
Wichita State will now play the waiting game. (USATSI)


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