Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 4/1/13
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Gregg Marshall likes to say that Wichita State is a reflection of the town it calls home: a hard-working, blue-collar, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of place. Maybe that's why it's so easy to imagine the studious-looking coach with the specs perched on his nose reminding his often-overlooked team at halftime against Ohio State to "play angry," and the Shockers riding that command to their first Final Four since Lyndon B. Johnson was president. "First of all, they're very good people. They let us coach them," Marshall said shortly after the Shockers' 70-66 victory over the Buckeyes on Saturday night in Los Angeles. "They have great character," Marshall said. "I mean, there are times when it's not easy in our practice sessions, (but) they allow us to coach them. The team comes first." Indeed, there's no Stephen Curry in this bunch of longshots. There's no Doug McDermott piling up the points, or some other "name" player with the sure-fire NBA future. No, the Shockers are heading to Atlanta after their upset of Ohio State - and of Pittsburgh and Gonzaga, lest you forget - on the broad shoulders of a bunch of industrious dudes from as near as Wichita and as far away as Nigeria, who have come together to create a team that is stacking up just fine with the likes of Syracuse and Duke and Louisville. On this team, everybody has the opportunity to be the star. In their second-round win over the Panthers, it was Malcolm Armstead pouring in 22 points - his second-best performance of the season - and unheralded guard Tekele Cotton playing suffocating defense on Pittsburgh's Tray Woodall that ushered the Shockers to an easy victory. Two days later, matched up with top-seeded Gonzaga, the Shockers got 16 points from freshman guard Ron Baker - the pride of Scott City, Kan., population 3,796 - and some deadeye shooting from the perimeter in a victory that blew open the West Region of the NCAA tournament. In a regional semifinal against another longshot, La Salle, it was senior forward Carl Hall - the glasses-wearing big man with the even bigger motor - who bullied his way through the smaller Explorers for 16 points and carried the Shockers to their first regional final since 1981. And on Saturday night, it was Cleanthony Early and Fred Van Vleet who led the way against the Buckeyes, helping No. 9 seed Wichita State (30-8) build a 20-point lead and then hang on through a dramatic final five minutes to spring one more upset in a tournament full of them. "It feels very good, and it feels even better that I can experience it with these guys, with their struggles they overcame, what they have to go through in life," Early said. Early, a junior forward, arrived at Wichita State from tiny SUNY-Sullivan, a community college in upstate New York, where he was passed over by most high-profile schools. Now, he's the leading scorer on a team headed to the Final Four. "It feels very good," he said, "but we understand the fact that we've got to stay hungry and humble, because we've got two more games left to really be excited about." It's been a while since folks around Wichita State could say that this time of year. Or anybody else from the Missouri Valley Conference. With a school-record 30 wins, the Shockers are the first team from the Valley to reach the final weekend since Larry Bird led Indiana State to the title game in 1979. They're also just the fifth team seeded ninth or higher to reach the Final Four since seeding began that same year. Since seeding began in 1979, the lowest to ever win the NCAA tournament was Villanova, which was seeded eighth when it beat Georgetown in the final. Perhaps Wichita State has taken some inspiration from VCU, who made a Final Four run as an 11-seed a couple years ago. Or maybe the 65 version of the Shockers, who made the school's only other Final Four but were soundly beaten by Gail Goodrich and eventual champion UCLA. "It's been a while, so to be able to go to the Final Four and represent all of us and try to win a championship, who knows?" Marshall said. "We've had a lot of people support us along the way in Wichita and at the university and in our community. They're the best fans in the world." Make no mistake, all of Kansas seems to be rallying behind the Shockers. They're normally an after-thought on sports pages and airwaves dominated by the Jayhawks and fellow Big 12 heavyweight Kansas State, but might Kansas was ousted from the NCAA tournament by Michigan on Friday night, and the Wildcats didn't survive the opening weekend. That makes the Shockers the kings of the Sunflower State. Now, they'll head to Atlanta and try to become kings of college basketball. "I feel like this team, we aren't done yet, so it's on to the next game," Hall said. "We're back to work again, so we're just ready to go and make a run for this thing."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: LeBron salutes Toronto fans after Game 6

FIFA Penalizes 7 countries for discriminatory acts

Report: Jets offering Ryan Fitzpatrick 3-year deal for $12M

Ezekiel Elliott bought parents a new house with his first check

Warriors, Thunder taking turns beating each other in the opposite style

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Yoenis Cespedes open to spending rest of career with Mets

Los Angeles Kings reportedly to strip Dustin Brown of captaincy

Report: Sixers to gauge interest in Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel

Rob Ryan echoes brother Rex: ‘Bring Belichick on. We got him’

Wizards will offer Beal max contract

Report: Owners unhappy with Robert Kraft's letter for Brady

WATCH: D’Angelo Russell trolled by Adam Sandler and David Spade

WATCH: LeBron jukes defender, throws down one-handed dunk

Scientists call for Rio Olympics relocation or rescheduling

The biggest questions about the WWE brand split

U.S. Women’s Soccer players demand right to strike over equal pay, as Olympics near

Pat Riley reportedly hates the Dwyane Wade-LeBron James friendship

UEFA Champions League Final: The two Madrids and history in Milan

Memphis newspaper confuses Juwan Howard for David Fizdale

The tale of Kevin Love's inconsistent play

WATCH: Raiders release video promoting move to Las Vegas

Ricky Williams opening marijuana-friendly gym

Report: Utley's family received death threats after NLDS slide

College Basketball News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

How expanded instant replay has hurt the NBA

Best regular-season NBA teams not to win a championship

Every time an NBA team came back from a 3-1 deficit (and what it means for the Warriors)

How disallowed goals can change the course of NHL games

The five most disappointing MLB teams this season

QUIZ: Identify these NHL Hall of Famers by their nicknames

QUIZ: Name every winner of the Belmont Stakes since 1867

Sniping quotes highlight NHL conference finals animosity

QUIZ: Name every NBA franchise's original incarnation

The 15 biggest playoff upsets in NBA history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker