The Selection Sunday waiting game

Gregg Marshall

The idea was floated to John Giannini more as a joke than an actual suggestion, but the La Salle coach, just one year removed from sweating out Selection Sunday, jumped at it anyway.

What if, instead of revealing the top seeds at the start of the selection show, the broadcasts began with the unveiling of the last teams invited to the NCAA tournament. In other words, start with the bubble teams that got in?

"Oh my God, what a great idea!" Giannini said. "That's a humanistic and merciful suggestion. Unfortunately, the rest of America wants to know the 1-seeds but the people who have invested years of work, we'd sure like to be put out of our misery."

Selection Sunday is both the best and cruelest day of the college basketball season -- Christmas morning with all the trimmings for some, a Charlie Brown Halloween bag full of rocks for others.

"The best reality TV show ever," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli has called it, and he's probably not far off. It's got all of the unpredictability of "Jersey Shore" mixed with the big reveal of "The Bachelor," fortunately without Snooki, Seaside Heights and group dates in Bora Bora.

The stories and tales from the day sometimes are almost as unforgettable as the games that follow.

Last year, their bus stuck in traffic on the way out of Brooklyn, Saint Louis players heard their name called on a bank of TVs at a New Jersey Best Buy.

In 2011, VCU player Jamie Skeen, so sure his team would be passed over, didn't even bother to wipe the buffalo sauce off his fingers to answer his suddenly vibrating phone when the Rams were, in fact, added to the field.

At 6 p.m. ET, teams and fans across the country will take a deep breath and wait to see how a season's worth of work is rewarded or rejected.

But the drama doesn't begin with the show.

It begins with the sheer effort of just getting to the start of the show.

There are very few sure things in life. Wichita State, at 34-0, is a sure thing, a short-of-an-asteroid-hitting-the-Earth 1-seed lock when the bracket is finally revealed.

That doesn't mean the buildup to Sunday has been easy. The Shockers stopped playing games a week ago, wrapping up the Missouri Valley tournament and an automatic bid days before some teams even started to play their conference tourneys.

In between there has been the same endless chatter and debate that has dogged Wichita State all season -- about the Shockers' schedule strength or perceived lack thereof, and whether or not it merits a coveted top seed.

It's never easy to ignore, but certainly a little less difficult when the busy work of playing games fills up the calendar. But with no games to play and time to kill, there was plenty of white noise if the Shockers chose to listen.

They did not.

"I saw a great quote on Twitter the other day from Chadrack Lufile: 'Wolves do not fret about the opinions of sheep,'" Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "You can't dwell on those types of things. We realize there are detractors and haters. That just fuels our fire."

Marshall is no stranger to this, not the detractors nor the waiting game. He has yet to walk the gold-paved road of the haves of college basketball. He came to Wichita by way of Winthrop.

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