Deacs could look to Wichita State's Marshall
Posted February 14, 2014
With upcoming road games at Duke, Maryland, Virginia and Florida State, Syracuse is a long shot to get out of the regular season undefeated.
Wichita State, 26-0, is not.
In fact, it would be stunning if Gregg Marshall’s Shockers did lose during five remaining Missouri Valley games against Evansville (11-15), Loyola (9-16), Drake (12-13), Bradley (11-5) and Missouri State (17-8) in the March 1 finale at Wichita.
For that matter it would be just as stunning if the Shockers took a loss in the March 6-9 MVC tournament in St. Louis.
It’s a perfect storm mix for an undefeated regular-season run.
Marshall’s team, which reached the Final Four and lost 72-68 to eventual champ Louisville last season, is a big, mean fish in a small, shallow conference pool. Indiana State (19-6) is the only other MVC team in position to even hope for an NCAA bid as of now.
But wait. The road gets even rosier for the Shockers. If they win out for a 34-0 record entering NCAA play, they’d likely land the No. 1 seed in the Midwest and open play in the same St. Louis Scottrade Center that hosts their conference tourney.
Syracuse, 24-0 entering Saturday’s ACC home game against N.C. State (16-8), probably will be the underdog on Feb. 22 at Duke (19-5) and possibly at Virginia (20-5) on March 1. The March 9 regular-season ender at Florida State (14-10) will certainly be physical and could be testy.
Marshall a proven program builder
Wake Forest (14-10, 4-7 ACC) will host the Seminoles Saturday and although the Deacons should get another win, the rest of the schedule doesn’t look very favorable for Jeff Bzdelik in his fourth season.
Remaining are league road games at Maryland, UNC and Miami, plus a date with Duke in Winston-Salem on March 5.
Bzdelik (48-70 overall at Wake and 15-46 ACC) has been more popular with athletic director Ron Wellman than fans, and there has to be at least a chance of a coaching change unless the Deacons put on a furious late-season charge.
If it comes to that, the 50-year-old Marshall would have to be on Wellman’s short list of targets.
N.C. Central’s LeVelle Moton should be on that list, too. Others who should get a look are Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, Xavier’s Chris Mack, George Washington’s Mike Lonergan and perhaps 60-year-old Rick Byrd of Belmont.
But Marshall, a South Carolina native and longtime Roanoke, Va., resident, has been one of the most obvious overachievers in the business for years.
In nine seasons at Winthrop (S.C.), his teams went 194-83, reached the NCAA seven times and regularly scared or whipped bigger programs.
In six seasons with at Wichita State, Marshall is 165-70 and that includes an 11-20 record in his first season.
As the 9th West seed last season, the Shockers knocked out Pitt, Gonzaga, La Salle and No. 2 seed Ohio State en route to the Atlanta Final Four.
Marshall’s not flamboyant and may not win the press conference, but he’s a gifted program builder and top-rate tactician. Wake would be blessed to bag him.