Probably because this has been such a terrible week for college athletics – referee scandal, the Rutgers basketball scandal, Mark Emmert the buffoon and Louisville’s Kevin Ware t-shirts – Wichita State hasn’t really received the same kind of love that was heaped on George Mason in 2006 and Butler in 2010 and 2011.
I know Jim Larranaga won the National Coach of the Year award for what he did with the Miami Hurricanes, but my vote would have gone to Gregg Marshall of Wichita State. The Shockers lost their top six (!) scorers from last season, and weren’t expected to do much this year. Unlike Miami, Wichita State doesn’t have a roster with proven commodities, future NBA players, or even quasi-high school stars.
Did Gregg Marshall have a Kentucky-like recruiting class coming in to replace all that scoring? Nope.
I just looked up the Shockers’ top six scorers for this year. None of them were ranked in the Top 100 by Rivals coming out of high school. Hell, none of them were even ranked in their own state coming out of high school. Here’s a closer look:
* Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State’s point guard, had other D1 offers – Arkansas, Providence – but he ended up going to Oregon. He left Eugene after x years for the Shockers.
* Cleanthony Early, a junior power forward who is the team’s leading scorer (13.7 ppg), went the JUCO route. Alabama and Missouri were interested in him.
* Carl Hall, the team’s best story, is 24 years old and in his sixth year of college basketball. He fainted on the court a couple years ago. Another JUCO, Hall drew interest from VCU three years ago.
* Demetric Williams, a senior shooting guard who is the team’s 5th leading scorer, Rivals said he had interest from others schools like Iowa and SMU, but no offers.
* Tekele Cotton, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, wasn’t heavily recruited at all, according to Rivals. He’s 6th on the Shockers in scoring.
* Ron Baker, who runs a close 2nd to Hall for best storyline – read here and here – had interest from low-majors, but famously paid his own way to Wichita State as a walk-on. He’s now a redshirt freshman.
Now that’s an impressive coaching job. NCAA wins over Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State have the Shockers in Atlanta, and put Marshall right there with Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart among the most-coveted mid-major coaches in the country.
I quickly scanned the Louisville roster. Russ Smith wasn’t a Top 100 player or ranked in New York coming out of high school. But Peyton Siva was 39th nationally in the Class of 2009, Gorgui Dieng was 44th in 2010, Chane Behanan was 21st in 2011, Wayne Blackshear was 36th in 2011 and Montrezl Harrell was 82nd in 2012. It would be a colossal upset if the Shockers – 10.5 point underdogs – beat the Cardinals Saturday night.