ST. LOUIS (AP) - Wichita State goes for the first 35-0 start in NCAA men’s basketball history on the same court where the top-seeded Shockers won their last three games.
Almost as good as home cooking.
After snipping down the nets as Missouri Valley Conference tournament title champs, coach Gregg Marshall predicted a return trip to St. Louis allowing players to sleep in the same hotel beds, revisit the scene of that success and play before a massive, mobile yellow-clad fan base again for the 1 vs. 16 Midwest Region matchup against Cal Poly on Friday night.
“Great to be back,” Marshall said. “Shocker fans know their way to St. Louis. It’s like we were just here, kind of like ground hog day.”
The team with the best record in the field draws the lone sub-.500 entrant, on paper not much of a deterrent to a victory that would top UNLV’s 34-0 start in 1990-91.
Marshall uses jersey numbers of past Wichita State greats as a fun reference point.
“Right now, we’re at Xavier McDaniel. Thirty-five is Antoine Carr,” Marshall said. “We are 0-0 in this tournament and now we need a six-game win streak. That’s what we’ll be focusing on.”
“It’s great to make it,” coach Joe Callero said. “But it’s a little better to do something once you get there and get a victory.”
Five things to know about Cal Poly-Wichita State:
HISTORIC RUN: The only other 34-0 start in NCAA history was by UNLV in 1991 before losing to Duke in the national semifinals. Win No. 34 topped by one the season by fellow Valley member Indiana State in 1979, when the Larry Bird-led Sycamores lost in the title game to Michigan State and Magic Johnson.
Pressure hasn’t entered the picture yet. The Shockers dispatched three foes in the conference tournament by an average margin of 20 points.
But why would it? This team proved immune last spring, making it to the Final Four as a No. 9 seed.
“It allows you to be calm in those adverse moments,” said sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet, the Valley player of the year. “Once you’ve done something once, the second time is hopefully a little easier.”
HISTORIC UNDERDOG: This is Cal Poly’s first NCAA appearance and it’s already a big success.
By beating Texas Southern on Wednesday in Dayton, the Mustangs became the first 19-loss team in 59 years to win a tournament game. Long forgotten is a 2-9 stretch prior to the conference tournament.