QUICK NOTE: Nothing here takes away from what Wichita State has accomplished. Going undefeated throughout a season is something EXTREMELY hard and anyone who says otherwise is completely ignorant. If it wasn't hard we would see teams start 35-0 all the time and WSU's season wouldn't be a huge deal.
Again and again we see the problem with the NCAA tournament. The one-and-done style is one of the major reasons why the tourney is so remarkable and why it never fails to disappoint. But the main problem with this system is exactly what happened at the Scottrade Center on Sunday afternoon. Regular season success is almost never celebrated. For teams all over the nation that aren't favorites on regular basis, the response to their success is the same nationally, "Wait Until March".
The thought that we should judge seasons by one game in March is absurd. But this is a standard that will likely never be changed. This is more true in mid-majors than in any other group. Most schools clumped in this group know that their is one bid up for grabs for their conference, and unless they pull off a epic season, this is a cold, dark reality.
How can this change? It all has to do with the big time mid-majors. This year's Wichita State, last year's Gonzaga, and the Horizon League era Butler. If mid-majors want respect, they HAVE to earn it. There is no other way around this. Mostly unknown mid-majors like VCU in 2011, Valpo in 1998, and George Mason in 2006 don't really matter to changing the status quo. These are teams just making runs, something that is praised when it is happening, but something that fails to make any long-term changes besides, "You remember Bryce Drew versus Ole Miss? That was insane."
If mid-majors really want their elite to be thrown into the same conversations as the nation's best teams, then elite mid-majors must be the ones making long runs into the NCAA tournament. These teams also need to do this over a 3-5 year period if we really want to see heads turn.
The effects of Wichita State and Gonzaga making extremely long runs into the tourney would have had the power to make people begin to question who the favorites really should actually be. But the negative effects of WSU and Gonzaga bowing out in the second round (SECOND ROUND NCAA, SECOND ROUND, NOT THIRD!!!!!!) might be felt by other mid-majors for years to come. Unless higher ranking mid-majors can make long runs in March, the selection committee could begin fearing giving ranked mid-major teams high seeds, or even giving better than average mid-majors at-large bids at all.
The latter of those two possibilities might already be beginning. Take Green Bay for example. The selection committee decided a decent ACC school in NC State was more deserving than one of the nation's most underrated mid-majors in the Phoenix. Now, somewhere, the committee members who picked the Wolfpack are smiling knowing that NC State's performance made no one remember Green Bay's argument for a bid. SMU might of been a team from a major-ish conference, but there is no doubt that the team's former C-USA roots played an extremely large role in the selection committee overlooking the Mustangs.
The bottom line is that mid-major teams of all kinds will continue to be thrown under the bus unless the best of the group start to regularly bring down the big boys. Yeah, the runs from previously unheard little guys are awesome, but real progress, in the end, ties right back to how Wichita State and Gonzaga (or the best of the little guys) do in March.