Notre Dame out-Shockered the Shockers on Thursday.
Normally the paragons of precision, Wichita State for one of the few times in the last three years was out-executed in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame masterfully ran its offense, resulting in a 30-of-54 shooting night and ending the Shockers’ third straight tremendous season.
You have to hand it to Fred VanVleet and Darius Carter, as they tried everything they could to send the Shockers to the Elite Eight and opportunity to chop down the Kentucky Sequoias. VanVleet, who is now known nationally instead of regionally after incredible performances against Kansas and Notre Dame, shimmied his way to 25 points and Carter powered to 22 to double-handedly keep WSU in the game.
But Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton were numbing no-shows. Both were just 2 of 10 from the field and combined for 15 points. It was Cotton’s final game and he certainly didn’t want to go out that way. Baker can actually graduate as he redshirted his first year and could possibly hear the NBA calling. I’m sure coach Gregg Marshall’s future plans could depend on whether or not Baker comes back for his final year.
Also, the clock struck 12 for Evan Wessel as he turned back into a pumpkin after his Cinderella performance against KU when he bagged four 3-pointers. He was no surprise to Notre Dame, which stuck to him like teflon as he took only one shot the entire game and drew nothing but air.
Notre Dame was much better than I expected. Its offense had a perfect-storm-like night, including 18 of 24 in the second half when the Irish put on an execution clinic. They made the Shockers look like a good, little team whose lack of a rim protector was exposed.
Still, what a great year for the Shockers. They’ll always have Omaha, where they became the Kings of Kansas with their bragging-rights victory over KU. They won the Missouri Valley again and filled Koch Arena every single game.
Alabama already has indicated it will throw a boat load of money at Marshall. I’m sure other schools will, too, as openings become available.
But if VanVleet, Baker, Wessel and the entire bench come back, and throw in a couple of newcomers, Marshall will have it good at WSU next year. He’s indicated in the media how much he likes it and the Shockers are the only game in town since there’s no football. If he went to Alabama, he would be dwarfed by the mighty Crimson Tide football program and coach Nick Saban.
But maybe he’s ready for a new challenge. Maybe he’ll believe he’s taken WSU as far as a non-Power 5 team can go and seek greener pastures, with an emphasis on the green — as in money.