WSU Wheat Shockers Got Valley Pride

Updated: April 5, 2013

By Gary Norris Gray

This is the first time a number nine seed team advanced into the Elite 8 NCAA Playoff since 1989. This also happens to be the first year since 1989 to have more Mid-majors in the NCAA Tournament. Now Americans can see what inclusion can do for the sport of college basketball?

Give the little guy a chance and awesome things happen on the court. The Wheat Shockers are going remind American sports fans about the events of The Indiana State  University Sycamores accomplished some 33 years ago.

The Missouri Valley Conference continues to send quality teams to the tournament each year. At one point in the mid eighties “The Valley” as it’s known in conference sent five teams to the first round. The MVC has a rich history which dates back to 1907. It is a spinoff, a splinter of the heavy laden football conference Big 8 now Big 12 which split from the MVC in 1927.

The Mo. Valley is one of the great power houses of Mid-major conferences in basketball. This year during Bracket Busting Weekend they performed well. The MVC went 7-3 that weekend. No other conference can claim that winning percentage.

The 30-8 Wichita State Wheat Shockers got to the Elite 8 the first time since 1965. Missouri Valley Conference teams still have to gain respect from other basketball conferences. It is slowly materializing with the ascension of The Creighton Blue Jays and The Wheat Shockers also the rebirth of The Indiana State Sycamores.

This historic conference had teams that included the now famous Butler Bulldogs, The Univ. of Cincinnati-Bearcats, The Univ. of Detroit-Titians, The Memphis State Tigers now Memphis University, The Louisville Cardinals, The New Mexico State Aggies, The North Texas State-The Mean Green, The West Texas State-Buffalos, The University of Tulsa-Golden Hurricane, The St. Louis University-Billikens and my favorite and arch rival The Northern Illinois University-Huskies.

Their current members as of March 2013 are The Bradley, Braves in Peoria Ill., The Blue Jays of Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska. This year the Blue Jays battled the Duke Blue Devils in an attempt to reach the NCAA Sweet 16, The Blue Devils won 66-50.

The MVC continues with the Drake University Bulldogs at Des Moines, Iowa, The University of Evansville Purple Aces at Evansville Indiana, Illinois State University Red Birds at Normal, Ill, Indiana State Sycamores, Terre Haute, Ind. The Sycamores went to the NIT this year after a great basketball season, coming in 3rd place in conference behind the Blue Jays and Wheat Shockers. ISU made the MVC famous 33 years ago with the Larry Bird Championship teams that went to the finals. They played and lost to Magic Johnson’s Michigan State Spartan team.

This 1979 meeting created the continuing rivalry in the NBA between Bird and Magic. It was East Coast vs. West Coast, Boston vs. Los Angeles, Black vs. White, Showtime vs. Blue Collar. Making NBA basketball must see TV in the 1980′s.

Rounding out The Valley, The Missouri State Bears in Springfield, Mo, The University of Northern Iowa Panthers in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Southern Illinois University Salukis in Carbondale, Ill., and last The Wichita State University-Wheat Shockers in Wichita, Kansas.

This will be the final year the Blue Jays participate in the MVC. Creighton will move on to the Big East Conference in 2014. MVC commissioner Doug Elgin has stabilized the conference since 1988. The losses of Northern Ill. Univ. and Creighton University which is very amazing with so many other teams transferring into larger conferences.

The Valley has produced some outstanding basketball stars starting with Southern Ill. Univ. Salukis Walt “Clyde” Frazier-NIT Championship Teams, Mike “Stinger” Glenn, Joe C. Meriwether Corky Abrams-The First MVC Basketball Championship Team 1977. With Chris Carr, and head coaches Paul Lambert, Rich Herrin, Bruce Webber, and player and coach Chris (“Floor Burn University”) Lowery, who moved the Salukis to the Sweet 16 in the mid-2000′s.

Wichita State notable basketball stars are Nate “The Snake” Bowmen, Antone Carr, Cliff Levingstone, Xavier McDaniel, and Dave Stallworth.

Creighton Blue Jays have, Paul Silas, Benoit Benjamin, Kyle (Saluki killer) Korver with future star Doug McDermott and head coaches Willis Reed and Eddie Sutton

Northern Iowa Panthers have, Ali Farokhmanesh, the Panthers gave Creighton their current Coach Greg McDermott and another star coach Nick Nurse who coached in England as well as the United States.

Missouri State Bears have, Winston Kinnard Garland, who played for the Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets among other NBA teams. Daryel Garrison the MSU Bears leading scorer.

Indiana State Sycamores put the MVC back on the basketball map with the Larry Bird Championship teams; there are other Sycamore stars like Butch Wade, and Carl Nicks.

Ill. State University Red Birds- Doug Collins player and coach for the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers and Chicago Bulls

Evansville Purple Aces- had a tragic plane crash in 1977 and rebuilt their basketball program. Head coaching legend Arad McCutchan was not on the plane because he retired that spring. He was inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later that year.

Drake Bulldogs-Dolph Pulliam was the first player drafted by the NBA and NFL, and Wayne Kreklow still wear Bull Dog Blue.

This year The Creighton Blue Jays and the Wichita State Wheat Shockers entered the NCAA tournament hoping to represent the mid-west, mid major conference and play well, both did more than that. In the second round the Blue Jays defeated the Cincinnati Bear Cats 67-63 an old MVC member, while the Wheat Shockers ambushed the Pittsburgh Panthers 73-55, then upset the number one team in the land and the number one seed in the west, The Zags of Gonzaga 76-70 proving that their front line would be hard to beat as they move on to The Sweet 16.

The Shockers were not finished as they defeated the LaSalle Explorers 72-58 with a huge rebounding difference in this game moving on to the Elite 8. My heart was torn because I have to root for The Valley teams and root for all Philly Area teams.

Teams are going to have a difficult time taking the black and gold out of this year’s tournament because of their big front court. It has been a very long time since a Valley team made it too a regional finals, The Shockers did it this year with class.

The Wheat Shockers moved on to the Final Four this past weekend with a resounding victory over Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes 70-66. Again the rebounding of Carl Hall and Cleanathony Early with the quarterbacking of guard Malcolm Armstead guided The Shockers to a 25 point lead in the 1st half. WSU could not hold it as the Buckeyes cut The Shockers lead to 6 points with over 2 mins left in the game. Tekele Cotton scored the critical basket with 2:20 left on the clock keeping Ohio State away sealing the victory for the other Nebraska team.

Could this be another MVC Cinderella Story? In 1979 The Indiana State Sycamores with Larry Bird and those baby blue uniforms made Ervin Magic Johnson sweat as the Michigan State Spartans defeated ISU for the 1979 NCAA Championship.

The Wichita State Wheat Shockers move on to the Final Four and will face the only ranked number one team left in the Tournament, The Louisville Cardinals, fitting it is a former Missouri Valley Conference Team.

Can The Shockers Shock the world again?

Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove on Disabled Community Activist. Email at

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

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