ATLANTA -- Don't forget about Wichita State's run to the Final Four.
The Shockers won't. Coach Gregg Marshall never will. The Missouri Valley Conference wouldn't dare. The state of Kansas shouldn't, either.
Wichita State, more so than when VCU and George Mason reached the national semifinals, earned every bit of respect and credibility that should be offered to a school outside the perceived power conferences.
Louisville had to come from 12 points down to beat Wichita State 72-68 in the national semifinals Saturday. The Cards needed a herculean effort from Luke Hancock (20 points), and a tie-up call on a jump ball that was quick, but not questioned by the Shockers, to hand the possession to Louisville and prevent a possible Wichita State game-tying shot with less than six seconds remaining.
Marshall said after the game that he wished the Shockers would have had an attempt. Who knows whether Louisville would have gone for the foul or tried to defend while ahead by three. We'll never know. Ron Baker, who was tied up on the play, said he was forced to dribble and lost his balance. The whistle came as he was trying to tap the ball to a teammate.
Wichita State was the stronger, more physical team in this matchup. No one was as dominant at his position around the basket as Cleanthony Early, who scored 24 points and grabbed 10 boards. But Louisville had the more effective bench -- from Montrezl Harrell's key four boards and eight points, to Tim Henderson's two 3s in replacing the injured Kevin Ware, to a sixth starter in Hancock. Louisville created the turnovers at the right time after failing to turn Wichita State over for most of the game.
Marshall was understandably emotional after the game, tearing up in the locker room and then nearly again in a postgame interview.
"I'm not sure I've ever felt exactly like this," he said. "This one's especially hard because of the run we went on. We set a school record for wins and were in the Final Four for the second time in school history.
"This may be the most important basketball game that I'll ever coach. It's definitely the most important to date and it's probably the most important Wichita State has ever played in."
Wichita State athletic director Eric Sexton said after the game that the Shockers proved to the country what their fans had known all along -- that they belong. He said this run to the Final Four -- the first for a Valley team since Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979, and the first for the Shockers since 1965 -- will do wonders for all involved. Sexton said he is already talking to Marshall about extending his rolling seven-year contract and adding more significant pieces to his deal. He said Marshall showed a commitment to Wichita State by staying when he could have bolted and that the Shockers will do the same.
The Shockers lose seniors Malcolm Armstead, Carl Hall, and two reserves in Demetric Williams and Ehimen Orukpe. But Wichita State brings back Early, Fred VanVleet, Baker, Tekele Cotton, Chadrack Lufile and Jake White.
The Shockers were no fluke in beating No. 8 seed Pitt, No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 13 La Salle or No. 2 Ohio State in the West Regional. The run was magical, but it might not be a one-time affair and it shouldn't be forgotten.
"We didn't just say goodbye," Marshall said. "We didn't say this is it. This is just a beginning for us. We've got a lot of good, young players in that locker room. All they're talking about right now is working hard this summer and getting better, so I'm pretty excited about it."
He should be. Wichita State isn't disappearing off the grid any time soon.