Armstead was the only starter to survive the rash of injuries that hit in December. After guard Evan Wessel (broken pinkie, out for the year); Hall (broken thumb, missed seven games); guard Ron Baker (stress fracture, 21 games); and Ehimen Orukpe (sprained right ankle, three games) all went down, Marshall had to plumb the depths of his roster to field a team. The Shockers faltered down the stretch after a 19--2 start, but once they made the field of 68, Marshall made sure they knew they belonged. "I want my teams to play with complete confidence," he said on the eve of the regional final. "Last night before the game I said don't let anyone in this room walk out of it expecting anything other than success. You belong. You're here. You might as well win these games."
They have won them so decisively that when the C word came up at the end of Marshall's press conference last Saturday, he swatted it away as forcefully as Hall had rejected Thomas's layups. "I don't think we're Cinderella at all," he said. "If you get to this point, you can win the whole thing. I think Cinderella just found one glass slipper. I don't think she found four."
In his search around the arena, Hall couldn't find even one hat. But he wouldn't dwell on it. There were bigger prizes to chase.