INDIANAPOLIS — It’s clear 10th-seeded Wichita State is using the disrespect-slash-conspiracy theory approach to motivate itself for Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against second-seeded Kentucky.
“I think they kind of set it up,” Shockers junior forward Darral Willis Jr. said, referring to the selection committee. “They gave us a 10 seed on purpose to play those guys. We won 30 games and only lost four, so you’d think we’d get a (better) seed. But they wanted us to play Kentucky, so I guess that’s what they’re gonna get.”
It’ll be a role reversal from what turned out to be an all-time classic between the Wildcats and Wichita State in the 2014 second round. Back then, the Shockers were an undefeated No. 1 seed and Kentucky was a struggling No. 8 seed with 10 losses — and the Cats pulled the upset.
“I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said Saturday regarding the fact of the inverse rematch. “They’ve got quite a sense of humor, the guys in that room.”
Former Wichita State star Cleanthony Early told SEC Country this week that Marshall played the disrespect card before that 2014 game, too. Afterward their epic battle, both teams expressed a mutual respect.
“I didn’t even realize until after the game what a great game it was,” Marshall said, but: “In the end, it took a loss to validate our team, which I think is really ironic and sad.”
Then he doubled down on the selection committee conspiracy theory.
“They just try to weed us out,” Marshall said of teams from non-power conferences. “That’s what their intent is. You wouldn’t think that would be the case, but it certainly seems that way. We just want to keep making it hard to do that.”