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Mid-Major Morning Mashups: Wichita State Wins NIT Edition

With the Final Four set to consume the sporting world for the next 72 hours, Wichita State's time in the spotlight will ultimately be brief, but the Shockers have set the tone for what could be a very successful 2011-2012 season. That's how the NIT ultimately works each year isn't it? Team X wasn't quite good enough to make the cut for the Big Dance, but after cutting down the nets at Madison Square Garden, suddenly there is talk of not just reaching the NCAA Tournament next season, but actually winning a couple of games. 

You have to forgive Shocker fans for already looking ahead to next year, they're team just polished off SEC West champ Alabama, capping off a school record 29-win season and their first ever postseason tournament title. Four of Wichita State's top five scorers are juniors and will be back for another go around, Gregg Marshall is an excellent coach and depending on how the non-conference schedule breaks down next season, it's entirely possible that Wichita could leapfrog Manhattan as the No. 2 basketball city in Kansas. 

There's an entire off-season to dissect the future for the Shockers however, for now, let's let them enjoy this one.

Mike Ogle of the New York Times: "Everyone knows not to run with scissors. But how about dancing? Having just won the National Invitation Tournament championship by defeating Alabama, 66-57, the giddy Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall already had scissors in hand to cut down the net while accepting his N.I.T. watch. As a recording of Tina Turner's "Simply the Best" played, he swung his hips on the Madison Square Garden floor, tapped his feet and cut the air with his scissors. Before a small but partisan Shockers crowd of 4,873, Wichita State (29-8) won the N.I.T. for the first time in 12 appearances. The seniors Graham Hatch and J. T. Durley led Wichita State with 12 points apiece. Hatch, who called the night magical, made all four of his 3-point attempts and was named the tournament's outstanding player. "A special group of guys that deserve everything they now have coming to them," Marshall said of his team."

Kieran Darcy of "They did not play in front of a packed house. And they did not have the attention of the nation, as four teams in Houston will on Saturday night. But a group of college basketball players from Wichita, Kansas, got to cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. Talk about a memory of a lifetime. "I'm just ecstatic," said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, after his team defeated Alabama 66-57 to win the 2011 NIT championship. "Just a special group of guys that deserve everything that they now have coming to them." Wichita State (29-8), out of the Missouri Valley Conference, had an impressive run in this tournament, knocking off teams from the Big 12 (Nebraska), ACC (Virginia Tech), Pac-10 (Washington State) and SEC (Alabama), along with fellow mid-major Charleston. In the process, the Shockers broke the school record for wins in a season, and erased some of the sting of a heartbreaking loss to Indiana State in the Missouri Valley tournament semifinals. Wichita State was dreaming big dreams, and had its sights firmly set on the Big Dance. "It was a devastating loss," Marshall said. "But you have to deal with the rough moments, the down slides. ... By and large, 29 and 8, coming here, beating all the teams in this tournament, winning a championship, seeing all the smiles on these kids' faces, seeing all the yellow there on the Madison Square Garden floor. And I know Wichita is on fire. I think it's a pretty big deal."

Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle: "Call it Wu York. For two nights, the World's Most Famous Arena belonged to Wichita State. The Shockers completed an impressive run through the National Invitation Tournament with a 66-57 win over Alabama on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Wichita State won the school's first national tournament and enjoyed all the perks in their celebration on the court. "I'm never going to forget it," senior J.T. Durley said. "I'm a champion. We're tough, and we pulled it out." The Shockers, 29-8, cut down a net, each player saving a piece. Coach Gregg Marshall made the final snip, removed it from the rim and twirled it in jubilation for the fans to see. "A great trip to New York," said junior Garrett Stutz, formerly of North Kansas City. "The biggest thing is we are always going to remember this day."

Don Kausler Jr. of the Birmingham News: "JaMychal Green had the best seat in Madison Square Garden, but it was the last place he wanted to be Thursday night. The star junior forward sat on Alabama's bench in foul trouble for eight long minutes of the second half of the NIT championship game. For the last 1½ minutes of that stretch, he sat on the sidelines at center court, in front of the scorer's table. As he sat there longing to get back in the game, he waited for a whistle to blow. And he waited. And he waited. While he was waiting, Wichita State (29-8) won the NIT championship. In a 90-second stretch, it stretched a six-point lead by six more points and pulled away for a 66-57 victory. "It was tough sitting on the sideline watching my teammates suffer," Greens said."

Sean Brennan of the New York Daily News: "Thursday night's NIT Championship Game had a look that will be very similar to the NCAA Tournament title tilt Monday night. One team from a traditional power conference facing off with one of the nation's feel-good smaller schools with everything on the line. And while Butler and VCU will try to strike a blow for the little guys this weekend in Houston, spunky Wichita State out of the Missouri Valley Conference was looking to beat them to the punch by disposing of Alabama of the mighty SEC last night in the NIT Championship Game. It would be a nice capper on a season that saw the Shockers post the most wins in school history. Sure Thursday night's Garden get-together was a bit more Off-Broadway than that other tournament, but a championship is a championship and someone was heading back to campus with a banner to hang. Now the Shockers are going to have to make room in the overhead bin on their flight home for that banner thanks to Graham Hatch, who drilled two enormous three-pointers in a 1:12 span to break open a tight game as Wichita State shocked the Tide, 66-57, to capture the NIT title."

{Kind of pokes fun at the NIT, but clever enough for me to want to share it}

Rashed Mian of the Long Island Press: "Hofstra University announced on Thursday that men's basketball head coach Mo Cassara has signed a new 5-year contract through the 2015-2016 season. The first-year coach replaced Tim Welsh who was hired to take over for Tom Pecora who left for Fordham last year. Welsh, however, resigned a month after accepting the job because of a DWI arrest. That's when Cassara-who was going to be an assistant coach for Welsh-was named head coach. "Mo did an outstanding job this season in leading us to a second place finish in arguably the greatest year in the Colonial Athletic Association's history," said Hofstra's Director of Athletics Jack Hayes in a statement. "He has proven his abilities as a coach and as a recruiter, and we're very excited about the program's future under his leadership." Cassara led a young and inexperienced team to a 21-12 record, and the Pride were 14-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association. With star point guard Charles Jenkins leading the team, the Pride tied for second in the CAA, finishing two games ahead of Virgina Commonwealth University-one of the current Final Four teams. Hofstra reached the semifinals of the CAA Tournament for the first time since 2006."