|Marshall's long NCAA tourney layoff ends|
Marshall is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1987. The Thundering Herd's reward? An opening-round showdown with a battle-tested Wichita State team that's had recent success in the tournament.
No. 13-seed Marshall takes on the fourth-seeded Shockers on Friday in an East Region game in San Diego, Calif. The winner advances to face Murray State or West Virginia.
The Thundering Herd (24-10) held off Western Kentucky in the Conference USA tournament championship game to snap their 31-year NCAA tournament drought. They don't have a win over a tournament team this season but played No. 1-seed Xavier close in an 81-77 loss in mid-December.
"We're really excited about the opportunity," Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni told reporters. "It gives us a chance to represent the school and the state on a national level. We're going to see how far we can go and I hope everyone enjoys the ride."
Wichita State (25-7) is in the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight season. The Shockers have reached at least the second round in six of their last seven trips, including a run to the Final Four in 2013.
Coach Gregg Marshall's team finished second in the American Athletic Conference this season and has wins over NCAA tournament teams College of Charleston, South Dakota State, Houston and Cincinnati. The Shockers lost to Houston in the semifinals of the AAC tournament but still earned a four seed.
"I was pleased with (our seed)," Marshall said. "I thought we were going to be a five or a four. Right on the border of a five and four, teetering towards a five. We had a lot of wins in those first two quadrants, because we had the opportunity to play good teams."
Marshall is an up-tempo, high-scoring squad, featuring a pair of 20-plus-point scorers in Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks. Elmore led Conference USA in scoring, averaging 22.8 points per game. He dropped 27 on Western Kentucky in the conference tournament championship.
"We know what we're capable of," Elmore said. "So, we like our chances."
The Thundering Herd are 12th in the nation in scoring, averaging 84.3 points per game.
"I would say that the teams they remind us the most of that we've played this year are Savannah State and South Dakota State," Wichita State's Marshall said of the Herd. "Both of those teams were really good. South Dakota State is in the tournament and I think Savanah State was beat by North Carolina Central so they did not get to go. Both of those teams played some fast, high-octane offense -- spreading the floor, driving it and shooting the three. They were entertaining games, so we'll have to be on our toes."
Wichita State ranks in the top nine in the nation in assists, rebounds and rebound margin. The Shockers thrive off their inside-out duo of sophomore guard Landry Shamet and senior forward Shaquille Morris. Shamet leads the team in scoring (15.0 points per game) and assists (5.1).