Wichita St. has set history, becoming the first college basketball team since the 1991 UNLV team to enter the tournament undefeated in the regular season. The Shockers outlasted a feisty Indiana St. team 83-69 to win the Missouri Valley Tournament in St. Louis, finishing the regular season a perfect 34-0.
Fred Van Vleet lead the way, taking over play late in the second half when Indiana St. made a brief run. The Sycamores closed within eight points with under three minutes to go, but the Shockers scored the next six points to put the game away. Van Vleet scored 22 points, going 9-14 from the field including four three pointers. Tekele Cotton helped out with 20 pounds, with Run Baker chipping in 14.
The Shockers won the MVC tournament for the first time since 1987.
“I’m very pleased and honored to be the one to bring the trophy back to Wichita,” said Wichita St. coach Gregg Marshall. “I told my players, short of the Final Four last year, I think this is going to be one of the biggest celebrations back in Wichita than we’ve had in a long time. We’ve won regular seasons. We’ve been to Sweet 16s. We’ve been to the Final Four. Short of that Final Four, I think this is going to be really appreciated and honored. So we got the monkey off our back, so to speak.”
The Shockers are expected to be back in St. Louis for the first two games of the NCAA tournament. Marshall says they’ll be ready.
“We are very healthy,” said Marshall. “I think nicks and dings and bruises, but nothing that is major. Ron’s ankle is better. That was our most significant injury of the year. So relative to a lot of other teams, and this has a way of evening out over the course of my career. Last year we were banged up the whole year, except for the first nine games. But then this year we stay relatively injury free. That’s how you’re able to do some things like 34-0. You have to stay healthy and have very, very good players.”
Wichita St. has a week to get healthy and ready for the tournament. They will use last year’s Final Four run as a blue print.
“That worked pretty well last year. We were two possessions away from playing for a National Championship, ” Marshall said. “I want to make sure we get back on that path because that was a good one.”