ATLANTA — Don’t leak this information to fiery head coach Gregg Marshall, but Wichita State is playing the de factor Cinderella at the Final Four in Atlanta, due in large part to the fact that not many people could find the school on a map prior to the Shockers’ upsets over Gonzaga and Ohio State.
Not even Wichita State’s own players.
In a loose press conference Friday afternoon before the team’s open practice, forward Carl Hall offered his initial impressions of the lesser-known school in the national semifinals.
“I knew nothing about Wichita State. I had to Google it,” said Hall, who worked in a lighting factory before making his way to the Shockers’ campus. “When I first heard the word ‘Wichita,’ I’m thinking a small country town, people walking around with cowboy boots on, things like that.”
Teammates Malcolm Armstead and Cleanthony Early, who also passed by in relative obscurity during their recruiting processes, shared in his fanciful visions of the Wichita State campus.
“When I first heard about Wichita State and found out that it was in Kansas, first thing came to mind was ‘Wizard of Oz,’ like Dorothy,” Armstead said. “But I’m glad I’m here.
Added Early: “Had to do my research … I made my decision and I felt pretty good about it, and I still feel good about it.”
The Shockers will face No. 1 overall seed Louisville in the first national semifinal on Saturday.
Regardless of Saturday’s (and possibly even Sunday’s) outcome, Wichita State will not match the national recognition of a Louisville or Syracuse or Michigan. Gonzaga has been dominating the mid-major game for a decade and college basketball fans still struggle to locate Spokane, Wash.
But a Final Four appearance is a Final Four appearance. At this point, it doesn’t matter if the bus driver — or, in Hall’s imagination, the caravan of wagons — can find the way back home.