Gregg Marshall has been so Gregg Marshall this week.
"It was such an amazing achievement for that team to get an at-large bid," he said, recalling the 20th anniversary of the College of Charleston's first NCAA tournament bid, when Marshall was an assistant coach under John Kresse. "I was excited to speculate back and forth with coach Kresse during the days leading up to the selection show."
Marshall told North Carolina freelance reporter Barry Jacobs that Wake Forest - the program the College of Charleston faced back in that 1994 NCAA tournament - is the only ACC school that has shown interest in tangling with his suddenly elite Wichita State program.
"To be honest with you, we don't think they're good enough," Marshall said. "They don't help our schedule."
Wichita State, No. 2 in The Associated Press poll and looking to lock down a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, rolled past Missouri State on Saturday in the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals to improve to 33-0.
Regardless of what happens Sunday in the league championship game, Gregg Marshall and the Shockers - groovy name for a garage band - will win it all this year. No other team in your soon-to-be-filled office pool will have a better combination of talented players, wise head coach, incessant approach, available fans and March Madness moxie.
Marshall's simple "run hard" mantra works with a roster full of overlooked prospects who buy in. Bradley head coach Geno Ford said it best after a 69-49 loss to Wichita State: "At the rim they have unbelievable length. It's length and it comes from anywhere. . They're absolutely terrific at help and recover, and they deny (passes). You can't find five teams in the country with that."
True. Wichita State's schedule is every bit as weak as advertised.
The Shockers have not played a ranked team. They are No. 15 in USA Today's Sagarin computer rankings.
But most of their games have been routs.
Last year, Wichita State as a No. 9 seed upset No. 2 seed Ohio State, 70-66, in an NCAA regional final. The Shockers came close against eventual national champ Louisville in the Final Four, losing 72-68.
Wichita State won't have to travel far for NCAA tournament fun: St. Louis for opening-round games, on to Indianapolis for the Sweet 16, Dallas for the Final Four.
Much more fan friendly for the Shockers than their Salt Lake City-Los Angeles-Atlanta jaunt of 2013.
At the 'epicenter'
Marshall, a 51-year-old Greenwood native, has a sunflower yellow locomotive rolling down the tracks and everyone else better watch out. It's fueled by a powerful concoction: knowledge Marshall gained from Kresse at the College of Charleston, savvy sifted from Marshall's seven NCAA tournament trips at Winthrop and the frighteningly steady gains at Wichita State.
The Shockers went from 11 wins in Marshall's first season to 17, then 25, then 29 and an NIT championship in 2011.
They made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2012 and the Final Four last year.
Wichita State might be just as good next year. Two of the three Shockers that made the All-Missouri Valley first team are sophomores, guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, who won the Larry Bird Trophy as the league's Player of the Year.
Marshall makes approximately $2 million per season. He and his family - wife Lynn, who has a College of Charleston masters degree, son Kellen and daughter Maggie - live on a golf course.
The 10,506 seats at Charles Koch Arena are filled for every game. The Missouri Valley Conference this week gave Marshall its Coach of the Year award for the third straight season.
Another Final Four appearance probably guarantees Marshall a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Plus, Marshall gets to hang out every Monday night during the season at Deano's Grill & Tapworks, host site of Marshall's weekly radio show. Typically, he orders a pizza with sausage, onions, jalapenos and banana peppers while answering questions from avid fans.
This week, someone asked about recruiting.
"To be quite frank, we don't get the pick of the litter," Marshall said. "That goes to Duke or UNC or those type programs. We get the next level guys that want to go somewhere now where they can go to a Final Four and win every game in a regular season and win the NIT and be on national television and be the focus, if not the epicenter, of college basketball. Which is what we've been the last couple of weeks."
That is, players like Fred VanVleet, who picked Wichita State over Northern Illinois and Kent State and quickly emerged as a national star.
Food and good basketball go together. Marshall fondly recalls the College of Charleston's 1994 NCAA tournament Selection Show watch party at a now defunct East Bay Street restaurant. The Cougars, though 24-4, were not smart money to make the field.
"The excitement in that Arizona's restaurant will always be something I cherish," Marshall said.
Not taking NCAA tournament appearances and seeding for granted is another reason to like Wichita State.
Going into this week's Missouri Valley Tournament, Marshall preached caution.
"They know it's possible to lose to these teams," he said of his players. "We played these teams twice and the way you go 31-0 is you have a healthy respect for your opponent, and you know if you don't play well against them, you can lose."
A conference title gives Wichita State a 34-0 record heading to the NCAA tournament.
Six more wins and it's 40-0, a pizza topping even better than jalapenos and banana peppers.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff
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