After a season of challenges, Shockers return to Big Dance


Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Wichita State sophomore Tyson Etienne goes for a jumper during the game against Cincinnati at Dickies Arena on Mar. 13.

After a season filled with adversity for Wichita State, the Shockers are slated to return to their first NCAA Tournament since 2018. 

Before the season started, six players transferred out of the program, former head coach Gregg Marshall resigned amid allegations of abuse and COVID-19 complications kept them from competing in their season-opening tournament. 

Earlier this week in the conference tournament, the Shockers faced more hardships. In the AAC Semifinals, WSU fell to Cincinnati, giving the Shockers their worst loss of the season one day before the Selection Show. 

Even with that, Head Coach Isaac Brown remained positive, especially with everything the team has gone through this year.

“When I walked into the locker room, the first thing I said was keep your head up,” Brown said. “You guys have had a great season, you guys have battled. Nobody expected you to win the conference championship in the American. I’ve got a good feeling that we’ll still be in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve done the work we needed to do. ”

Sophomore Tyson Etienne said that even with the uncertainty of their NCAA Tournament, they just had to trust that the committee would make the right decision. 

“You’ve just gotta have faith, have to trust,” Etienne said. “It’s out of our hands, we built our resume and the committee is going to make their decision and whatever decision they make is the decision they make. I believe we have earned a spot in the tournament but we don’t make that final decision. I trust that the good energy will come back to us.”

Out the gates this season, the Shockers dealt with complications from COVID-19 and had to miss out on their season-opening tournament in South Dakota. Those issues carried over as the team started out the season 1-2 with losses coming to Missouri and Oklahoma State after being limited to eight players. 

Brown said that the leadership shown was critical in this season still being a successful one.

“The leadership and staying together after losses, I think that was huge,” Brown said. “Nobody pointed fingers going back to the Mizzou game, the Oklahoma State game. Those guys came back in the next day ready to work and we kept learning from our mistakes.”

A year ago, WSU found themselves ranked in the Top-25 early on in the season and opened up with a 10-1 record.  But the Shockers faltered down the stretch, going 13-7 to close out the season. 

The team has quickly formed a tight bond and brotherhood which allowed the team to flourish this year.

“We also had energetic moments in the locker room too but this team is a lot more of a family,” Etienne said. “I think all of us are truly there for each other, want to see each other win on and off the court. It doesn’t just come down to if you’re scoring or not. I think everybody’s there for each other in all aspects of life.”

With Marshall’s resignation, Isaac Brown was thrust into the interim head coaching role and the team thrived under him. Brown led the Shockers to a 16-5 record and their first AAC regular season championship since joining the conference. 

Etienne said the coaching staff was crucial in keeping the team focused especially with all the distractions.

“I believe that the leaders and the coaching staff continue to harp on that every single day, not being complacent, not taking a shortcut,” he said. “I think that’s what paid dividends for us to stay locked in, especially dealing with all the cancellations we had to deal with during the last stretch in the season. For us to be able to do that was big.”

Even with their season hanging in the balance until Sunday night, junior Morris Udeze said the team had a lot to be proud of. 

“They picked us to finish seventh and we finished first,” Udeze said. “We all came together to win a lot of games that people thought we could not win. So, I feel like we did a great job this year and I’m proud of those guys in the locker room.”

WSU will face off against Drake in the First Four game. The game will either take place on Thursday at 5:37 p.m. at Mackey Arena. It will be broadcast on TBS. 

If the Shockers defeat Drake, they will move on to face USC in the first round.