NEW YORK (WFAN) — It’s March. Cue the madness.
In separate interviews on his show Tuesday, WFAN’s Mike Francesa talked with two head coaches who are headed to the NCAA tournament and another who hopes his team will defy the odds and make it there.
Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State Shockers will play in the Big Dance for the sixth consecutive year after beating Illinois State 71-51 Sunday to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Marshall said he has been somewhat surprised by this year’s squad, which is 30-4 and ranked 20th in the nation.
“I’ve got to tell you, Mike, when I lost those two NBA guards (Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet) … there was some apprehension. We were nervous,” he said.
“Our team has blossomed. … We gave that ball to (freshman point guard) Landry Shamet. He’s a guy that you’ve got to see play because he will eventually play in the association (NBA).”
Meanwhile, Tim Cluess’ Iona Gaels (22-12) are back in the tournament for the second straight year after beating Siena 87-86 in overtime Monday night to win the MAAC tournament.
“Our guys have taken the next-man-up philosophy, and whoever’s feeling it that night and playing well that night, try to find the hot hand,” Cluess said. “And they all have confidence. They all trust each other. And I think that helped us by having five different guys in double figures (against Siena). It’s a little harder to guard that.”
The Big East tournament gets underway Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. Among the opening-round games, eighth-seeded St. John’s (13-18) will face ninth-seeded Georgetown at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“For us, we’ve played with some resistance and physicality on defense, and it’s really important for us to share the ball. On those nights, we play pretty well,” St. John’s coach Chris Mullin said.
Even though a trip to the Big Dance is unlikely for the Red Storm this season, Mullin said he’s optimistic about the future.
“I think the natural progression is in place,” the St. John’s great and NBA Hall of Famer said. “We went 1-17 in conference last year, 7-11 this year. We played some really good games, had some really tough losses. But overall, I thought that we’d get some good, young pieces, and there’s been some individual improvement. And just you need time together. You have to get a full summer of this group together.”