Why not claim a Final Four?

Flying under the radar, the Shockers are gaining momentum to run for the National Championship.

Last weekend ESPN analyst Jay Bilas picked Wichita State as potential party-crasher to the Final Four.

“I think they can get to the Final Four and win this whole thing,” Bilas said. “They have experienced guards in Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. They’re an excellent defensive team, and they have a lot of specialists.”

Bilas is sold on the Shockers.

“They rebound. They guard. They’ve got everything,” Bilas said. “I think they got the ability to win, I think people who are overlooking them are making a huge mistake.”

There’s plenty of reasons to be excited, but if anything, many haven’t been satisfied with Gregg Marshall’s experienced squad.

Originally touted as one of the nation’s most talented teams, ranked No. 10 in the preseason polls, they were quoted in the conversation for another Final Four.

The Shockers fell for their sixth loss of the season on Saturday. Illinois State broke an 11-0 Wichita State run on the Valley, that up until then, had been a relatively unchallenged conference stretch.

Suffering three-consecutive losses in Orlando, and no major victories, critics across the nation begin to question whether or not the Shockers would be in the NCAA Tournament.

A Bleacher-Report journalist wrote the Shockers as being on the outside looking in, their chance at the NCAA Tournament slipping.

The Shockers lost by 23 points to an unranked Iowa team, the season looked to be trenched in defeat.

Fast-forward to February, Iowa is ranked No. 4 in the AP Polls, a candidate for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament come March.

USC is ranked No. 23 in the polls, they edged a three-point victory over the Shockers in November. Even Seton Hall, who defeated the Shockers in overtime, will likely be a contender in the NCAA Tournament come March.

Things aren’t as bad as they seemed.

It’s February. Fred VanVleet is healthy and contending for his second MVC Player of the Year title, Gregg Marshall is now the program’s all-time winningest coach and the team has only one loss since mid-December.

Wichita State is three conference wins away from capturing a share of the Missouri Valley title. It would mark their third in three years. Their national respect is solidified so deeply, they remain ranked No. 25 in the AP polls after the the loss.

Last week Gregg Marshall called into ESPN’s Andy Katz and weighed in.

“No one can go undefeated, everyone is beating everyone else,” Marshall said. “I think it’s refreshing and exciting heading into March when we have so many quality teams.”

Opponents are competing at a greater strength than ever before. Though no team is truly complete. The slot to slide into the Final Four stands wide open.

Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker are poised and focused on ending their storied careers cutting down the nets in Houston.

In a year of parity and countless upsets in college basketball this season, anyone could win on any given day.

We should start to think, why not us?

Why not Wichita State to make a run all the way to the Final Four? Why not compete for a National Championship?

— Contributing: Evan Pflugradt