LOS ANGELES — They were overlooked before the season because last year's five leading scorers graduated. They were dwarfed in their own league by highly touted Creighton. And they were overshadowed during their NCAA tournament run because another Cinderella story was even more unfathomable than their own.
Only now that they've vanquished the best the West Region had to offer can the Wichita State Shockers not be ignored any longer.
Despite temporarily losing two of their best players to second-half injuries and allowing a determined Ohio State team to cut a 20-point deficit to three in the final minutes, Wichita State refused to fold and escaped with for a 70-66 victory. The ninth-seeded Shockers advance to the school's first Final Four since 1965, where they'll again be an underdog against either Duke or Louisville next Saturday.
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"We've been called the underdogs all year and nobody believed we could get to this point," Wichita State junior Nick Wiggins said. "It's just an unbelievable feeling to actually prove everyone wrong, make it to the Final Four and have this success."
Wichita State becomes only the fifth team seeded ninth or higher to make the Final Four, joining Penn (No. 9 in 1979), LSU (No. 11 in 1986), George Mason (No. 11 in 2006) and Virginia Commonwealth (No. 11 in 2011). The Shockers didn't have an easy path either, knocking out Big East power Pittsburgh, No. 1 seed Gonzaga and streaking upstart La Salle just to advance to the Elite Eight.
Toppling Ohio State was especially impressive simply because the surging Buckeyes were playing their best basketball in March. Buoyed by an elite defense and the emergence of complementary scorers who have taken the pressure off Deshaun Thomas, they had won 11 in a row entering Saturday's game to advance within one game of a second straight Final Four.
The most remarkable part of Wichita State's run was the Shockers did it with ex-walk-ons, junior college transfers and overlooked prospects that a powerhouse like Ohio State wouldn't even dream of recruiting.
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