BY ALEX RUSSELL
There are a lot of standard names making deep runs in this year’s tournament: Duke, Louisville, Syracuse. One you’ll never see in a list like that is still around, though, and they are the Wichita State Shockers. Who the hell are they? Let’s sort it out.
Who are these guys?
America’s team, kinda! They’re the lowest remaining seed in the tournament at a 9 seed. They’re out of the Missouri Valley Conference, and they got in because of a law that Southern Illinois, Creighton, or Wichita State has to be one of the last teams to get in. If the committee leaves any two of these teams out of the field, they are fed to wolves. Look it up. One time they tried to put Iowa in and they were hit with hammers until they died. You can’t put Iowa in. No one likes Iowa, and that includes Iowa.
Oh, and they’re also the “Shockers.” If you want to be the Worst Person On Twitter, try to find a way to make sixteen jokes about that name this week. It actually comes from the school’s harvesting history, but I bet you can find a really clever joke about it! Did you know it means something else in modern times?
How did they get here?
It was relatively easy, actually. ‘Cuse had to play Indiana and a Marquette team that had just beaten Miami. Michigan played VCU, Florida, and Kansas. America’s new team Wichita State had a bit of an easier path:
- Pitt, who can be relied on to lose as early and often as possible.
- Gonzaga, who essentially everyone in your office had making an early exit and very nearly was the first one seed to ever lose to a 16 seed.
- La Salle, who had a pretty neat run out of the First Four but was still, well, in the First Four.
- Ohio State, who is great but they break my narrative. Ignoring Ohio State, as we all should. Something something tattoo scandal.
They scheduled VCU, Tennessee, and Iowa in their non-conference, but they played in a really bad (and getting worse, with Creighton’s exit) Missouri Valley Conference. They lost to Southern Illinois, a team that did everything they could to implode this year. They found a way to lose to Evansville, and I’m 65% sure that school is made up.
They’re also a nine seed! And they’re still here, prepared to play a powerhouse school with a legendary asshole coach. I’m writing this before Duke and Louisville play, so I don’t know which it will be. But isn’t it neat that it applies to either one? Puke.
They did beat Ohio State, though, but it wasn’t in football so I don’t think it counts.
That’s pretty cool.
I know, right?
I meant that a nine seed is in the Final Four, not that Ohio State lost.
Oh, well, sure. Whichever.
Anything else I need to know?
Sure! They played in the 1965 Final Four and lost to the eventual champion UCLA. They are in Kansas, but the good part. Their mascot is named WuShock, because of course he is. They’ve been OK for the last few years, but that’s been a shock to the Wichita State faithful. This is only their third tourney appearance in 25 years, though they did have a good run in 2006 before running into (how weird is this) an unstoppable George Mason team.
They’re pretty good this year, too. They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, and rebounding well can keep you in a game even against a better team. So no matter which opponent they face, they have a real shot in this one. If you’re gonna lie and say you saw this coming in some way, stick with the “rebounding” excuse. Or talk about how they beat VCU at VCU in November. That will also work.
So go on, you men of Wichita! We’re with you, for at least another day.