ARLINGTON, Texas -- Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall is growing accustomed to being center stage at the Final Four. He just wishes his team was with him this time around.
After leading the Shockers to the national semifinals a year ago, Marshall deftly guided them through a perfect regular season, earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. While they were done in by Kentucky in the third round, by then the votes had already been tabulated.
Marshall was the runaway winner of The Associated Press coach of the year award.
He accepted his hardware during a news conference Thursday at AT&T Stadium, where the Wildcats will play Wisconsin and UConn will meet Florida in the national semifinals Saturday night.
''I'm truly honored,'' Marshall said. ''It's amazing what our young guys and our program were able to accomplish this year, with the tremendous win streak and the run they took us all on. I've been coaching for a long time, but when you have a group like this, they make it really special.''
Wichita State won its first 35 games, a record for a men's major college program, and became the first team to enter the NCAA tournament with a perfect record since UNLV in 1991. With his motto of ''play angry,'' the Shockers embodied the intense nature of their blue-collar coach, who came up through tiny schools such as Randolph-Macon to reach the pinnacle of his sport.
Along the way, the Shockers captured their first Missouri Valley tournament title since 1987 and landed forward Cleanthony Early and point guard Fred VanVleet on the AP's All-America teams.
''I tell you what, they made it easy to coach,'' Marshall told the AP. ''You enjoy going to work every single day. Even with the loss to Kentucky, they never wavered. They wanted to be a special group, and they wanted to do things that have never been done.''
That loss to the Wildcats still stings, though. The heavyweights from the SEC were given a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, meaning Wichita State had to face them in the opening weekend, and the two teams waged a thrilling game that came down to VanVleet's missed shot at the buzzer.
''Ultimately, some point down the road, we'll look back on this season, and look back fondly,'' Marshall said, ''but at this point, gosh, I wish we were still playing.''
Marshall received 44 votes for coach of the year. Tony Bennett of Virginia got 13, followed by Florida's Billy Donovan with six and Michigan's John Beilein and SMU's Larry Brown with one each.
• Marshall takes road less traveled to the top