Of course the baseball game that I was doing last night went 15 innings finishing just shy of midnight before a 6 a.m. flight, it's either Murphy's Law or March Madness.
So it begins---
Head Coach Gregg Marshall got his team into Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon so that they could get in a full workout at altitude. The Shockers will get their standard 50 minutes on the floor this afternoon before another closed door session where they'll work on the Pittsburgh scouting report. That will give Wichita State three workouts at the 4,300 feet Salt Lake is above sea level. The only other game WSU played at altitude this year was at Air Force in Colorado Springs (el. 6035 feet), I don't remember any of the Shockers having any problems in that game.
As in 2006 when they beat Seton Hall in Greensboro, Wichita State is playing one of the opening games of the NCAA Tournament. These are the games that if you lose-you feel like you weren't even a part of the dance. It's like getting into the ballroom, but being asked to leave before the music starts. For me, the strongest lingering memory of the Shockers loss to Virginia Commonwealth last year in Portland was the suddenness that the season ended with. It's great to get to the NCAA Tournament, but the end can be pretty unceremonious. It's amazing how winning a game, just one game, in the NCAA's can change the 'feel' of a season. Wichita State was dominant a year ago, wining the Valley on their way to a five seed, but the loss to VCU in the NCAA's is what many people tend to remember. It's not necessarily fair; it just seems to be the way it is. Such is life in a program with ever-growing expectations.
As I head to Pittsburgh's media session today, I'll be most interested to see if, or how, distracted they are by their eight seed. To hear and read about their reaction to being in the eight-nine game-one gets the impression that they feel slighted. This tends to work one of two ways in the quick turnaround from Selection Sunday to playing on Thursday; either it inspires you to prove a point, or hinders you from doing so. The eight-nine games in the NCAA are generally regarded as the 'coin flips' of the first (ok, second) round-two teams that are generally perceived as even. How those two teams arrive at that point is interesting; for Pitt the eight seed is, apparently, insulting. For Wichita State getting to the nine line was a pleasant surprise, I'm not saying that it will have any factor in tomorrow's game-it's just interesting to see the very different paths two teams take to the same destination.
It's official, Creighton is leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the greener (that's greener as in money) pastures of the Big East. I expect WSU and CU to continue to play each year, but it won't be the same-the Valley won't be the same. I wonder who might step up to fill the void left by the Jays departure. Who will the league pinpoint as their replacement? Who becomes Wichita States rival? All points to ponder sooner than we had hoped, I'm going to miss Creighton.