Shockers set to face off against Drake in the First Four


Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Wichita State redshirt senior Alterique Gilbert dribbles up the court during the game against USF at Dickies Arena on Mar. 12.

After a three year hiatus, Wichita State is returning to the NCAA Tournament, after receiving an at-large bid. The Shockers will face off against former Missouri Valley Conference rival, Drake in the First Four after both teams received No. 11 seeds. 

If WSU can win their First Four matchup on Thursday, they will advance to a first matchup against No. 6 seed USC.

“The wait after the game, just alone from yesterday was enough,” senior point guard Alterique Gilbert said. “We were just very nervous about it and once they announced our name, we just exploded. We were excited. We’re just looking forward to this opportunity.”

During WSU’s time in the MVC, they had 151 matchups with Drake from 1936-2017. The Shockers won the last 11 games against the Bulldogs before they left the conference in 2017. 

Drake finished in second place in the MVC this season, only behind Loyola-Chicago who received No. 8 seed for the NCAA Tournament. 

Head Coach Isaac Brown said he has not watched film on Drake yet. 

“I’m going to break down the game against Cincinnati and then I’ll start watching film on Drake, but I don’t know much about them. I know they’re a well-coached basketball team. I know they won 25 games. Obviously they’re a good team, so we’ve got to prepare for them and be ready to go.”

WSU lost in the conference semifinals to Cincinnati on Saturday which put the Shockers’ chances for an at-large bid in question. WSU were the second-to-last to be put in the field of 68. 

Sophomore Tyson Etienne said that after their loss to the Bearcats, it caused some anxious moments heading into Selection Sunday. 

“Knowing that we went out last game, not how we wanted to and to see us not being played in the championship game today was a sour feeling,” Etienne said. “But to see that, we’re still going to have the opportunity to go and write our story. It was a beautiful thing to see.”

Brown said that after the tournament’s cancelation last year, it meant a lot to be able to return this season.

“When kids signed with Wichita State it’s because they’ve seen us in the NCAA tournament and I’m just so excited that these guys get the opportunity to play in this tournament,” Brown said. “We have seven new players. No one on our basketball team has ever been to the big dance. So these guys are super excited. They’re ready to get started. Drake is a good basketball team and we’re just ready to go, man. Just super excited.”

Despite being a four-year college player, Alterique Gilbert will be playing in his first NCAA Tournament after missing out with Connecticut in the years previous. 

Gilbert said it meant a lot to make his first tournament in what could be his final year of college basketball. 

“It’s one game at a time, survive and advance, but it’s certainly going to be an experience,” Gilbert said. “We’re going to enjoy it because I’ve never been there before, but this is a lot of moments where a lot of Division I basketball is the highest level you want to play. So, I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can.”

Gilbert said that it was special for him to make his first NCAA Tournament appearance with the Shockers this season. 

“It just means a lot to me just to be a part of this group of young men and coaching staff. We’ve been through a lot together and, through it all, we just stand together and continue to just (keep pushing). That’s what I love most about this group. No matter the situation we’re in, we continue to fight and now we’re just grateful for this opportunity. A lot of guys, including myself, haven’t been to the tournament, so we’re excited for this opportunity.”

The game against Drake will take place on Thursday at 5:37 p.m. inside Mackey Arena. The game will be broadcast on TBS.