Wichita State has been an NCAA Tournament staple for the last four seasons, but the Shockers' postseason status was suddenly in precarious position on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Loyola-Chicago had Wichita on the ropes, holding a slim lead with under two minutes left. Then Ron Baker saved the day.
The senior guard went off for 25 points (including 5-of-8 shooting from three-point range) to rescue the top-seeded Shockers, 66-58. This would have been the biggest upset in MVC Tournament history and possibly could have sent Wichita State to the NIT despite entering the day No. 8 overall in KenPom's rankings.
Baker started the game 1-for-7, which was compounded by co-star Fred VanVleet's early foul trouble. But Baker caught fire in the second half to will the Shockers back into it:
This shot with under two minutes left gave Wichita a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
This could have been so bad for the Shockers.
Wichita State entered this game as an 18.5-point favorite after defeating Loyola by 22 and 26 points in its first two meetings this year. Loyola was the No. 8 seed in Arch Madness, entering at 14-15 overall and 7-11 in conference.
While no team ranked lower than No. 18 in KenPom's rankings has ever missed the tournament, the Shockers were in serious jeopardy due to a rough stretch in the beginning of the season without VanVleet. Instead, the Shockers survived, thanks mostly to Baker's heroics.
Wichita now plays the winner of Northern Iowa vs. Southern Illinois. The Shockers live to see another day.