PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- They talked about being disrespected and undervalued, and used the First Four date as a combination of motivation and opportunity.
Wichita State? Nope. That was VCU and Shaka Smart in 2011, en route to making history from the play-in game all the way to the Final Four.
Dare we say this is looking familiar? The Shockers flat-out embarrassed Arizona on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament, mopping the floor with the Wildcats and Sean Miller’s sweat-soaked shirts, 65-55.
They’ll play Miami in the second round Saturday.
"The way it’s viewed, typically the talk is that those teams that are in those play-in games shouldn’t be in the tournament," Wichita State senior guard Fred VanVleet said. "So we just take all of that as ammunition and just keep letting that chip on our shoulder get bigger and bigger."
The difference between these Shockers and those Rams: VCU, which lost four of its final five regular-season games, probably belonged on its seed line. This season, the selection committee fouled up Wichita State royally. The Shockers have been pretty good, and pretty consistent, since VanVleet returned in December from a hamstring injury (three of their eight losses came without him), leading the nation in scoring defense, ranked second in turnover margin and fifth in field goal percent defense.
But by the time VanVleet returned to the lineup, the Shockers had wasted three non-conference games and had only a handful of opportunities to measure themselves against the rest of the nation.
So Arizona essentially walked into a buzzsaw, an angry team that plays angrier, looking for an opponent with a big name to take its frustration out on.
Wichita State swarmed, swatted and dove on the ball, making virtually every shot, touch and pass difficult for Arizona, forcing the Wildcats into 19 turnovers Thursday.
How bad was it? Arizona averages 81 points per game. The Wildcats scored 19 in the first half. That wasn’t merely their fewest this season, it was their fewest in a half since 2009.
"We can’t make you respect us," Wichita State Gregg Marshall said. "But we can certainly not allow you to disrespect us."
No worries, coach. Pretty sure that won’t happen for the rest of this tournament.