Sunday, March 09, 2014

Wichita State: 2013-14 Missouri Valley Men's Basketball Champions

ST. LOUIS — The locker room was silent, players sat motionless. This was 39 minutes before No. 2 Wichita State tipped off against Indiana State on Sunday – an unblemished record on the line – and 14 players sat before their head coach, Gregg Marshall.
Standing in front of a dry erase board, he delivered a blunt message in 43 seconds.
"Just so we know where we are," he said. "Where are we? Where do we stand? What's at stake?"
He held out a iPad and scrolled down.
"This," he continued, "is from the Sycamores, Indiana State alumni association.
"Scroll to the bottom. They have planned tonight a pep rally to welcome the 2014 Arch Madness tournament champions home. Hulman Center. Doors open at 8 o'clock, OK. Tonight. To welcome the Valley tournament champions home, all right.
"So that is what you're dealing with.
"They want a piece of us. They want a piece of us. Let's give 'em the whoooole thing. Let's give them the whole enchilada."
The Shockers charged onto the court and beat Indiana State 83-69 in the Missouri Valley Conference title game before a Scottrade Center crowd awash in yellow and black.
Wichita State (34-0) will become the first team to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated since a star-studded UNLV team accomplished the feat in 1991. The 1975-76 Indiana team was the last undefeated national champion, which means an undefeated champion has never been crowned since the tournament expanded to 64 teams (now 68) in 1985.
"This team is going to be remembered 50 years from now," Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin told USA TODAY Sports. "The real tantalizing question now? Can they run the table – 40-0?"
Throughout the weekend as Wichita State chased its first MVC tournament championship since 1987, Marshall focused on winning this particular event – incrementally proceeding game by game, even half by half – rather than cementing a 34-0 record.
"The pressure was a lot more in the regular season," sophomore guard Ron Baker says. "This is a new season for us."
Added guard Fred VanVleet: "People don't realize how hard it is to do what we did, no matter what league you play in."
The Shockers are expected to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and play their first two games here in St. Louis as they begin their pursuit of back-to-back Final Four appearances. In a season chock-full of intriguing story lines, the Shockers stand as the most compelling. Led by a candid, shoot-from-the-hip coach, they are a bunch of overlooked, under-recruited players who proudly wear a chip on their shoulder. And they recoil at the suggestion that WSU is a "mid-major" program.
In fact, when a reporter asked Marshall in a news conference about being a mid-major, the coach bristled and said, "That 'MM' term that you used has been buried. I'm sure you saw that, but they had the funeral and everything, last rites. It's over."
There's no shortage of motivation: Their MVC tourney championship T-shirts included an unfortunate misprint. On the backs, Indiana State was listed as the champion.
Whether Wichita State would be better poised for a deep NCAA tournament run if it had suffered a loss has made for a strong debate. In 2004, Saint Joseph's suffered its first loss of the season in the Atlantic-10 tournament, earned a No. 1 seed and still reached the Elite Eight.
"It's too late in the year to lose," Wichita State assistant Steve Forbes said. "Maybe in January. When you get in February, March, time to keep winning. All a loss does is create a little self doubt. 'Oh, you can get them back (in gear) right after a loss'. Well, we have them right."
WOODEN AWARD: Ranking the 15 finalists
Aside from overcoming a 19-point deficit with 11:48 to play at Missouri State on Jan. 11, Wichita State has largely avoided much turbulence. Marshall says he's not sure he has called more than two timeouts all season long.
"I think timeouts are a sign of weakness," he said.
And the Shockers' first two games here were devoid of adversity, much to the delight of the thousands of Shocker Nation fans who overtook the city.
At 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, a large ballroom at the team's hotel, The Westin St. Louis, was packed with hundreds of Shockers fans, all in yellow and black. The crowd overflowed into the surrounding hallways for the team's pep rally. Fans, some riding high on the shoulders of their spouses, passionately sang along to the team's popular song. Some wore T-shirts adorned with the lyrics.
"You don't want to go to war/With the Shockers!"
"Don't start no stuff/Won't be no stuff!"
The university president John Bardo told the crowd that applications for admission for next fall are been up 89%. By the time Marshall finally addressed the fans, they were bursting with energy and anticipation.
"We've been playing one-and-done basketball for about a year," Marshall told them.
Ninety-minutes later Marshall walked in front of his players, all sitting in folding chairs in the locker room. In his final speech before the semifinal against Missouri State, he pointed to three circles drawn on the dry erase board and tapped the board. Only one circle had an 'X' in it.
"This is where we are in the tournament," he said. "It's three or nothing for us … We're one-third of the way there. It's three or bust. We're trying to put an 'X' right here today."
He talked about the importance of rebounding before pivoting back to the big picture. Players sat with rapt attention. No one moved.
"This will be our 33rd game in a row, but we don't talk about that anymore. We didn't talk about 32. The reason I talk about 33, okay, not only was it Larry Bird's number, not only is it the last Valley team, the most games they won before they lost in the championship game of the NCAA tournament back in the day, Larry Bird, but it's 33% toward a championship.
"When we win, it's 66.6 repeating. Sixty-seven percent – that's what we're after. Another step. Another step. Respect your opponent. Come out with unbelievable energy. We'll be fine."
The team came together and started clapping and hollering. Then they steamrolled Missouri State. By halftime, Wichita State was in total control of the game, but Marshall wasn't satisfied.
"This is the score, zero-zero," Marshall said. "Pay attention to that. It's very important …
"Bigs need to sprint more. You guys are (expletive) playing three or four minutes and coming out. Sprint! Sprint! Sprint! Sprint to screen! Sprint on your roll! Sprint to pop! Okay, more! Run the court on offense! Beat them down the floor!
"Fives cannot change angles, so if you sprint and sprint back they are going to be lost."
The outcome was never in doubt. After the 67-42 rout, Marshall walked into the locker room and delivered a two-minute speech.
"Okay, we've got a great steak dinner tonight," he says.
He looked up at a television screen.
"Go Tennessee," he said in reference to the Volunteers, a team Wichita State beat earlier this season, who were pounding Missouri.
"A couple things, man. You guys were so focused. God! They ended up getting 42, but we all know how that went down. The first group was really good. Really, really, really, relaly good. Less than a point a minute."
He looked at the three circles on the board and grabbed a marker.
"Can we do this? Finish this one."
Marshall finished off the 'X' in the second circle. Only one circle remained, one obstacle – Sunday's MVC title game.
"You're 67% toward your goal," he said. "Anyone want to sing for this one?"
"Wait!" players holler.
"We didn't sing for the last one, so we've got to wait!"
Later that night the team sat at round tables inside a private room in Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood restaurant downtown. Marshall was relaxed, sitting beside his wife, Lynn, and surrounded by close friends.
Lynn, who can be more outspoken than her husband, suggested a line or two that Marshall can fire back at critics of the program. Marshall roars. He repeats it three times. He loves it. He might use it one day.
His daughter Maggie later meandered over to the table and recounted how Bob Knight visited Wichita State's practice and told her that she had the wisest observations of anyone in the gym.
Marshall and a reporter turned to watch some of the Duke-North Carolina game on a large screen. They agreed it was an important so-called bounce-back game for the Blue Devils, who had previously lost to Wake Forest.
Marshall said he doesn't know anything about bounce-back games this season. Everyone laughs. He's right.
The Shockers have not lost since the 72-68 setback on April 6, 2013 to eventual national champion Louisville in the national semifinals.
Before Sunday's game, Marshall told his team that Indiana State and his team had different things at stake. He mentioned a potential 34-0 record. He mentioned 1991 UNLV.
There will be no Indiana State celebration tonight at the Hulman Center. The unbeaten Shockers are now back in the NCAA tournament, playing angry and chasing history.
"I think critics to me, at this point, are just laughable," said Marshall's 17-year-old son, Kellen. "I think it's laughable to try to critique a team that is making history with every game."
Toward the end of Marshall's news conference Sunday, a reporter asked if he had a message for any skeptics. Marshall said no.
Moments later, Marshall had a response, one that he had talked about over dinner Saturday.
"I might have an answer," he said. "I'm going to go with Chadrack Lufile's tweet about two weeks ago. 'Wolves do not fret over the opinions of sheep.' "

Coastal Carolina: 2013-14 Big South Men's Basketball Champions

Coastal Carolina is headed the NCAA Tournament, winning the Big South Tournament over Winthrop, 76-61. The Chanticleers never trailed, shooting 58 percent from the field in the win.
Josh Cameron scored 19, including three triples in six attempts. Center El Hadji Ndieguene had a workmanlike effort, scoring just four points but grabbing 10 rebounds. Coastal Carolina finished the regular season 11th in the nation in rebounding, and Ndieguene was a big part of that.
Winthrop came up short, shooting just 8-26 on three-point attempts and just 32 percent as a team. Keon Moore did his best to keep the Eagles in it, with 10 of his 19 points coming in the second half. Winthrop had defeated Coastal Carolina in both of the teams' previous meetings this season.
Carolina finished the regular season 11-5, good enough to finish first in the South Division of the conference. The Chanticleers entered the tournament with a first-round bye, awarded to the top-two finishers in each division. The Chanticleers are expected to be part of the Opening Round of the NCAA Tournament, where the field of 68 will be whittled down to 64.

Mercer: 2013-14 Atlantic Sun Men's Basketball Champions.

The Mercer Bears survived a poor shooting afternoon and a furious Florida Gulf Coast rally to beat the Eagles, 68-60, on Sunday. The 26-8 Bears followed up the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title with a win in the postseason tournament and by doing so earned a ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Senior guard Langston Hall scored 15 points for Mercer and went 6-for-11 from the floor, a much more efficient clip than his team recorded on the afternoon. The Bears shot 36.7 percent but crashed the offensive glass, played solid three-point defense and closed in front of a rowdy crowd in Fort Myers, Fla.
Mercer built a 33-17 by halftime, but FGCU made a second-half rally behind -- what else -- a few thunderous dunks.
The Eagles were within three points with less than three minutes to play, but Hall had other ideas. He hit a pull-up jumper with two minutes to play to give the Bears a five-point lead that was enough buffer to earn the win.
FGCU was led by Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson, who scored 14 points apiece. At 22-12, the Eagles lost out on an automatic NCAA Tournament bid and likely won't be a part of March Madness just a year after making a run to the Sweet 16.

Eastern Kentucky: 2013-14 Ohio Valley Men's Basketball Champions

Rick Byrd had coached Belmont to the NCAA Tournament in six of the past eight seasons, but now it's six of nine, as his top-seeded Bruins were beat 79-73 by Eastern Kentucky in Saturday night's Ohio Valley final.
The Colonels -- who were the preseason favorite in this league -- lead from the opening tip and held on to earn the second bid of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. (Harvard earned first invite to the party, on Friday night.)
Eastern Kentucky's been away from the NCAAs for a few years now, and this is a big showing for the team. Belmont recently came over from the Atlantic Sun. Because of that, some wondered if Byrd's program would dominate in the OVC the way it did previously. And it's still good. But having a different team break through is a good sign for the league.
This team is filled with veterans and knows how to move and score. There are defensive issues that EKU counters with many 3-point attempts. It shoots without a conscience. It is top-15 in the country in field goal percentage and will try to get the game in the 80s against whatever team it goes up against.
Player to know: Corey Walden. The senior was the Defensive Player of the Year and led EKU with 29 points in the title game. He scored nearly 70 points over the course of the OVC tournament. He's second on the team in points, rebounds and assists. He came up very big against Belmont, and chances are he'll be at the top of the scouting report.
Walden is also among the best on-ball defenders at the mid-major level. He's the one-man counter to a team that's not known for its D.
The Vitals:
  • Record: 24-9 overall, 11-5 in the Ohio Valley
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2007 (lost as 16 seed)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 15 seed
  • RPI: 109
  • KenPom ranking: 141
  • Sagarin ranking: 150
  • Best wins: at IPFW, vs. Belmont
  • Worst losses: at SIU Edwardsville, at Tennessee Tech, vs. Morehead State
  • Notable stat: At 56.3 percent entering Saturday, Eastern Kentucky came in as the second-best 2-point shooting team -- in the country. The Colonels do offense a lot better than defense, and getting short and mid-range shots has allowed this team to get this far. The team shoots 38.3 percent from 3, which is nice, but not even top 35 in the country.
  • Closing quip: Even if it's a 15 seed, it's going to be a very dangerous 15 seed. Why? The eight players who see the most playing time are juniors or seniors. This group can finish each other's sentences. Experience means a lot when small teams get to the NCAA tournament, because the pressure and big stage of that tournament can overwhelm almost anyone. Even though it'll be new for this group, having vets will help.

BoBA ISML 2014 Predictions: Preliminaries Match Day 12

ARENA 01: [Yuigahama Yui] Noire Sakura Kyōko by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 02: [Chitanda Eru] Yūki Mikan Chocolat by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 03: Kaga Kōko Nishikino Maki [Ai Astin] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 04: Kitashirakawa Tamako [Yūōji Ōka] Mukaido Manaka by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 05: Koshigaya Komari Kasukabe Yō [Celestia Ludenberg] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 06: Roromiya Karuta [Yatogami Tōka] Charlotte Belew by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 07: [Shindō Ai] Tsuchimikado Natsume Neptune by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 08: Miyauchi Renge Misaki Mei [Kurousagi] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 09: Matsuoka Gō [Fuyuumi Ai] Inaba Himeko by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 10: Yukinoshita Yukino Shirakiin Ririchiyo [Dekomori Sanae] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 11: Kujō Karen Miki Sayaka [Kudō Asuka] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 12: Gasai Yuno [Nōmi Kudryavka] Nepgear by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 13: Kurugaya Yuiko [Yukihira Furano] Akatsuki by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 14: Momo Belia Deviluke Kaname Madoka [Takanashi Tōka] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 15: [Myucel Foaran] Iona Ichijō Hotaru by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 16: [Kirigaya Suguha] Shokuhō Misaki Shiomiya Shiori by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 17: Takao [Kamikita Komari] Kuroki Tomoko by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 18: Leticia Draculair Cthugha [Laura Bodewig] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 19: [Dairenji Suzuka] Matoi Ryūko Natsukawa Masuzu by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 20: Nase Mitsuki [Tobiichi Origami] Nyarlathotep by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 21: Frenda Seivelun Himeragi Yukina [Kirigiri Kyōko] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 22: [Mikasa Ackerman] Frey Yusa Emi by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 23: [Yui] Haqua du Lot Herminium Natsume Rin by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 24: Tōma Kazusa [Hiradaira Chisaki] Morgiana by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 25: Takanashi Rikka [Itsuka Kotori] Tsutsukakushi Tsukiko by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 26: [Nakamura Yuri] Charlotte Dunois Last Order by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

ARENA 27: Oshino Shinobu Iwasawa Masami [Yuzuriha Inori] by >=500
Over/Under: 6000

It makes a fellow proud to be a soldier!

The heart of every man in our platoon must swell with pride,
For the nation's youth, the cream of which is marching at his side.
For the fascinating rules and regulations that we share,
And the quaint and curious costumes that we're called upon to wear.

Now Al joined up to do his part defending you and me.
He wants to fight and bleed and kill and die for liberty.
With the hell of war he's come to grips,
Policing up the filter tips,
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

When Pete was only in the seventh grade, he stabbed a cop.
He's real R.A. material and he was glad to swap
His switchblade and his old zip gun
For a bayonet and a new M-1.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

After Johnny got through basic training, he
Was a soldier through and through when he was done.
It's effects were so well rooted,
That the next day he saluted
A Good Humor man, an usher, and a nun.

Now Fred's an intellectual, brings a book to every meal.
He likes the deep philosophers, like Norman Vincent Peale.
He thinks the army's just the thing,
Because he finds it broadening.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

Now Ed flunked out of second grade, and never finished school.
He doesn't know a shelter half from an entrenching tool.
But he's going to be a big success.
He heads his class at OCS.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

Our old mess sergeant's taste buds had been shot off in the war.
But his savory collations add to our esprit de corps.
To think of all the marvellous ways
They're using plastics nowadays.
It makes a fella proud to be a soldier!

Our lieutenant is the up-and-coming type.
Played with soldiers as a boy you just can bet.
It is written in the stars
He will get his captain's bars,
But he hasn't got enough box tops yet.

Our captain has a handicap to cope with, sad to tell.
He's from Georgia, and he doesn't speak the language very well.
He used to be, so rumor has,
the Dean of Men at Alcatraz.
It makes a fella proud to be,
Why, as a kid I vowed to be,
What luck to be allowed to be
A soldier. At ease!