LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
Today is Selection Sunday, which means tonight the teams and seeds for the NCAA men's basketball tournament will be announced. Every year, the big schools blow their way their way through the bracket; a Kentucky or Syracuse or Duke. But just as often, a team from a small school in a small conference stuns everybody by staging an improbably deep run, usually slaying a giant or two along the way. Just ask these guys:
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WERTHEIMER: So, who is going to be the Cinderella at this year's Big Dance? What about the Shockers of Wichita State University, led by Coach Gregg Marshall. He joins us by telephone from his home in Wichita, Kansas. Coach Marshall, welcome to our program.
GREGG MARSHALL: Thank you, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: So, how do you feel about people like me calling the Shockers a Cinderella team?
MARSHALL: I understand why you would use that terminology. But for the folks that follow our program and have seen the growth in our young players and saw our deep NIT run last year, I don't think it's quite as much of a shocker. But I think once you see our team, and you grow to appreciate how hard they play and the skill level that they possess, it's understandable that you would call that.
WERTHEIMER: And this group of guys, they've been playing together for quite a while now. You have mostly upperclassmen.
MARSHALL: I have a lot of upperclassmen. I have a great group of freshmen that are getting their feet wet at an accepted pace. You really don't want to play a lot of freshmen. Teams that play a lot of freshmen generally lose more than they win. But the five seniors that we have or guys that we recruited the first year we got here when we needed an immediate injection of talent and size and athleticism and skill, so we've watched these guys grow as men, as student athletes and it's just been a wonderful five years in their evolution.
WERTHEIMER: So, is this the formula for small school success - lots of experienced upperclassmen playing a very careful game, not turning over the ball, tough on defense and, of course, at least one really, really big guy?
MARSHALL: Yeah, Linda, you sound like a coach. You sound like you've done this before maybe at some level. But it is. I think Garrett Stutz - you're referring to our seven-foot center from Kansas City - he's a guy that's going to get some looks by the NBA. And, you know, he has the skill set and the ability to pass and dribble and shoot like a guard.
WERTHEIMER: Well now, so how are your guys feeling right now? I mean, they just missed the tournament last year, they had that loss in your conference last weekend. How are they doing?
MARSHALL: Well, I mean, they're probably a little upset, as we all are. I mean, so often in our business you're judged by your last performance. But when that committee gets together, they're not just going to look at the last game. They're going to look at the entire body of work. And we've won 27 games. We've had five losses. This group of guys are very talented, they're very team-oriented, they have a lot of character, they share the basketball. So, I think that they're ready to find out who we're playing this evening and get to work on some preparation.
WERTHEIMER: So, what are your plans for the selection show? Are you going to watch it with your guys? Are you going to watch it at home? What?
MARSHALL: We have one of the most loyal, dedicated, vocal fan bases in the country. We sell out every game - 10,500. And I was asked if I'm going to do a - at my home with my team and just to avoid any disappointment. I said no. We're going to open up Charles Coch Arena. We'll probably have 10,500 fans in there when the selection show comes on. We'll find out when the world finds out and there'll be a huge eruption and everyone will start making their plans to travel with the Shockers.
WERTHEIMER: Gregg Marshall is the coach of the Wichita State Shockers - in the old days they were the Wheat Shockers - and he joined us by phone from his home in Wichita, Kansas. Coach Marshall, best of luck next week and tonight.
MARSHALL: Thanks, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.