For the 11th straight year under coach Gregg Marshall, Wichita State will play in a postseason tournament.
While the Shockers won’t be busting brackets in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years, they will be trying to repeat their 2011 National Invitational Tournament championship.
Wichita State was one of 32 teams chosen by the NIT on Sunday evening, as the Shockers (19-14) received a No. 6 seed and will play at No. 3 seed Furman (25-7) at 6 p.m. Central time Wednesday in Greenville, S.C., streamed on WatchESPN. Tickets are available on Furman’s website. The top seed hosts in the first three rounds of the tournament.
This will be the first meeting between WSU and Furman. The winner of that game will play the winner of No. 2 Clemson-No. 7 Wright State at the higher seed’s arena this weekend.
“If we win a couple of games, you get to go to Madison Square Garden,” Marshall said on Saturday. “When we won in 2011, it was basically the impetus for our run. Winning the thing the way we did was pretty special and plus it’s right across the river from Markis’ home (Paterson, N.J.).”
Marshall, who has 499 career wins, could pick up career win No. 500 back in his home state of South Carolina. Marshall was born in Greenwood, about a 70-minute drive to Furman’s campus in Greenville.
Furman was the third-place team in the Southern Conference, but had hopes of receiving an at-large NCAA Tournament bid with a 25-7 record with a marquee overtime win at Villanova on Nov. 17.
The Paladins have won nine of their last 11 games and are led by 6-foot-8 senior Matt Rafferty, who leads the team with averages of 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals. Guard Jordan Lyons also averages 16.1 points.
After a 66-63 loss to Cincinnati in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday in Memphis, Tenn., the Shockers flew home Sunday and anxiously awaited their fate.
There was no doubt WSU was playing like a team worthy of at the very least an NIT bid in the final seven weeks of the season. The Shockers won 11 of their final 14, upset an NCAA Tournament team in Temple and took another one in Cincinnati down to the final possession. According to BartTorvik.com, WSU was rated as the 54th-best team in the country during its 11-3 close to the season.
But the Shockers struggled mightily in the first three months of the regular season and, at their lowest point, were 8-11 overall and 1-6 in conference play.
WSU was also rated lowly in five of the six metrics that the NCAA selection committee used to examine teams. In predictive models such as KenPom (94) and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (96), the Shockers barely cracked the top 100.
But WSU’s saving grace might have been its resume in the quadrant system. Compared to other bubble teams, WSU had a high amount (6) of Quadrant 1 and 2 victories and only one Quadrant 3 loss, which was to Louisiana Tech at home in the season-opener back in November.
“We don’t care what seed we get,” WSU freshman Erik Stevenson said. “We just want an opportunity to play the game we love and put on the uniform another time and keep improving.”
It is WSU’s 13th NIT appearance and its first since winning the championship in 2011. This is Furman’s second NIT appearance with its first coming in 1991.
The other side of the bracket includes No. 1 Indiana, No. 8 Saint Francis (Pa.), No. 4 Providence and No. 5 Arkansas. The winner of the bracket will head to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals on Tuesday, April 2.