The Wichita State Shockers lived up to their name one more time on Saturday, as the number nine seed upset two-seeded Ohio State 70-66 to win the West region and a spot in Atlanta for next week’s NCAA Tournament Final Four.
The Shockers became the fifth nine or higher seed to reach the Final Four since 1979 and are the third such team to accomplish the feat since 2006. Although, we’ve seen more mid-majors and lower-seeded teams make it to the Final Four in recent years, it’s safe to say there weren’t many who had Wichita State winning the West region on their NCAA brackets.
“It’s crazy. I still can’t believe we’re here,” said Wichita State guard Cleanthony Early, according to ESPN.com. “You try to expect it, but you expect a lot of things that don’t happen. This really happened.”
The Shockers certainly had to earn their way to Atlanta, as they knocked off No. 1 seeded Gonzaga in the round of 32 before fending off the battle-tested Buckeyes, who rallied from 20 points down in the second half, cutting the WSU lead to just three points with three minutes to play.
That’s when Tekele Cotton outclutched the most clutch team in the tournament, draining a three-pointer to put Wichita State back up by six points with just two minutes to go. A few free throws later, the Shockers had shocked the world again.
After cutting down the nets for the first time in nearly 50 years, the Shockers realized who their next opponent will be – either tournament vets Duke, or No. 1 overall seed Louisville. However, as we’ve seen so far, the Shockers are ready for any challenge.
“We’re all new to this, but I think we’re ready for this,” Early said. “We’re going to prepare ourselves, and this game was pretty good preparation. We started at the bottom, and we’ve been working our way up.”