Gregg Marshall isn't a conspiracy theorist.
Yes, his Wichita State Shockers drew VCU, a veteran group of mid-major players who were coming off a Final Four appearance, last year. After losing to the Rams in the second round of the 2012 dance, the Shockers have drawn another tough card.
The Pittsburgh Panthers. The vaunted Big East powerhouse. Jamie Dixon.
But Wichita State, a No. 8 seed, knows that to have a chance to keep playing, the team must beat the likes of a No. 9 seed Pittsburgh early on.
The Shockers will get their chance Thursday morning at EnergySolutions Arena.
"I don't think there's a conspiracy against Wichita State," Marshall said. "We are the common denominator."
The Shockers, who finished 26-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference, lost in the conference tittle game to Creighton 68-65 two weeks ago, but they have shifted their focus to the defensive-minded and relentless rebounding Panthers.
"The winner of the boards is going to be the winner of the game," senior Shocker Carl Hall said.
Marshall said Hall, who is the heart and soul of this Shockers team, will have his work cut out for him in matching up against heralded Pitt 7-footer Steven Adams.
"It's just going to be a sixth-year senior versus a highly-decorated freshman with tremendous potential and size," Marshall said. "That will be one key matchup, but there will be others."
Senior guard Malcolm Armstead said he'll have to facilitate the transition from defense to offense for Wichita State to get easy buckets. Junior swingman Cleanthony Early said he's ready for the chance to make up for his struggles in the Missouri Valley Conference tourney.
"Our expectations for ourselves is actually higher than what people gave us," Early said.
Those expectations will be tested Thursday, when the Shockers try to shock a Big East power.
Wichita State vs. Pittsburgh
• 11:40 a.m. on TBS