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April 4, 2013

FINAL FOUR: Wichita State against Louisville

For the two die-hards and the one joker who jotted down Wichita State in their Final Four brackets: sometimes insanity does pay off.

By Cindy Ferguson

The ninth-seeded Shockers will be facing top-seeded Louisville Saturday, as the last few teams of the NCAA are whittled down for the championship game.

Most people, who assumed that the NCAA official rankings were not pulled from a hat, predicted that Wichita State would lose in the second round against Pittsburgh. Instead – shockingly – the Shockers first pummeled the Panthers 73-55, then continued on to top-seeded Gonzaga, pulling off a 76-70 win. They were 14-of-28 from beyond the arc and went on to the Elite Eight, where they defeated Ohio State 70-66.

The last time Wichita State made it to the Final Four was in 1965.

The team boasts a solid offense, with players like Malcolm Armstead and Cleanthony Early, who was overlooked by stronger programs. Some see Armstead as vital in the run against Louisville; during the tournament, he’s averaged more than 15 points per game and is making 90 percent from the foul line. Early is dangerous as well; with just over 14 points per game in the tournament, he’s also added 7 rebounds per game.

Overall, the Shockers are making 42.7 percent from the field, with 76.9 percent at the foul line. Their three-point percentage has been 36.3 in the tournament so far.

“It feels very good,” Early said. “But we understand the fact that we’ve got to stay hungry and humble, because we’ve got two more games left to really be excited about.”

And in the next game, the players are going to have to face the Louisville Cardinals, the only top seeds left in the tournament. The Cardinals, already an impressive team, will be playing with a couple of chips on their shoulders. It will be the Big East Conference’s last chance at a national title before it is disbanded into two new conferences. And – of course – Kevin Ware.

On Sunday’s game against Duke, the Cardinals spent the first half going neck and neck. But with just over six minutes before halftime, the team registered an incredible shock. Kevin Ware, a sophomore, was attempting to defend a three-pointer when he came down on his legs – hard. His lower right leg snapped, broken in two places. All this happened right in front of the bench.

According to Louisville coach Rick Pitino, as Ware was taken off the court, he kept yelling to his teammates, “Win the game! Win the game!”

Kevin Ware's has been one of the worst sports' injuries ever.

“I’ve never seen that in my life,” Pitino said. “We’re all distraught and all he’s saying is, ‘Win the game.’ Kevin is a special young man.”

Ware’s teammates took the command seriously; by the end of the game, they had routed Duke 85-63.

But even apart from injuries extraordinaire, Louisville is a team to be reckoned with. Villanova assistant coach Billy Lange insists that it’s impossible to prepare for them; they’re so strong on defense, so able to switch at a moment’s notice, no specific game plan is enough.

The Cardinals shine offensively as well. They have won all their tournament games so far by an average margin of almost 22 points. Junior guard Russ Smith has been averaging 26 points per game in the last four and is over 50 percent from the field. And Gorgui Dieng is always dangerous, offensively and defensively; he’s physical and hard to contain.

The Cardinals are part of the Big East old guard, and strong favorites to win. It won’t be easy for Wichita State. But if the team has made it this far…

About the Author

Cindy Ferguson is a high-ranking sports writer, currently writing reviews on NHL Hockey for the sports betting industry. Feel free to reprint this article in its entirety on your site, make sure to leave all links in place and do not modify any of the content.