Blame it on the NCAA’s hope for ratings. Blame it on its hope to jack up the ticket prices for the regionals. Or, just blame it on the ignorance of the Selection Committee*.
*it’s probably just the ignorance of the Selection Committee
No matter the actual reason, this year’s Sweet 16 was not supposed to have more than a couple teams from outside the Power 5/Big East. We know this because on Selection Sunday, two second-weekend-caliber teams, Dayton and Wichita State, were matched up in a 7-10 game.
Wichita State, the 10 seed that KenPom says is the seventh-best team in the country.
Naturally, the Shockers beat Dayton to advance to face Kentucky in the second round. Kentucky, the 2 seed that KenPom says is the fifth-best team in the country.
To anyone who followed college basketball all year, this game was a virtual tossup, and the committee got its wish, as the team they are more familiar with advanced, 65-62.
Until the final minutes, the game itself was about as pretty as this mad-online-blogger’s meltdown.
There were bricks. Oh, there were bricks. There were also bumps, box-outs, and a bumblin’ Bill Raftery, somehow making this ugly game a must-see rock fight.
Kentucky shot 42 percent, while Wichita State shot 39. The Shockers were 8-24 from three and the Wildcats were 7-18. Neither team turned the ball over much, but both played suffocating-enough defense that good looks were few and far between.
Things got better at the end though, as Kentucky began to rattle the rims and Landry Shamet found his touch. He scored eight of Wichita State’s final 11, including a critical three with just over a minute to play.
But on Wichita State’s final two plays of the game, the Shockers could not get a look. It was partly because they did not have a timeout left, and partly because Kentucky was able to defend so tightly without fouling. It was, admittedly, impressive.
So while Kentucky is headed to the Sweet 16, where does Wichita State go from here? If you guessed to the American Athletic Conference, you’re probably right. Say what you will about the AAC, but it is definitively better than the Missouri Valley and will get the Shockers on TV far more often. Of course, it would help if big-name schools weren’t so afraid to schedule them.
Looking at you, Kansas.
But a potential move to the AAC is still a year away at best. Wichita State is going to have to deal with this again next year. The Shockers better go undefeated. At least then their first-round game won’t be a total injustice.