Toronto Raptors Fred VanVleet with the Wichita State Shockers from to 2016
Fred VanVleet is nothing short of a college basketball legend. But just like his NBA career, he had to work his way up from the bottom to get there.
VanVleet was more of a role player in his freshman year with Wichita State, but that team went on a ride that shaped his future.
A nine seed entering the tournament, the Shockers did what they do best: Shock. After upsetting No. 8 Pittsburgh in the first round, they slayed No.1 Gonzaga in the Round of 32. Wichita State carried that momentum into the Sweet 16, where they eliminated fellow cinderellas No.13 La Salle, and then downed No. 2 Ohio State behind a 12-point effort from VanVleet. The Shockers were heading to the Final Four.
There, they’d fall to eventual champions No. 1 Louisville. But the seeds for a dynasty were sewn.
In 2014, Wichita State went undefeated through the regular season. A team from the Missouri Valley Conference ranked number one was almost unheard-of, but there they were. Unfortunately, it was about to all fall apart. After beating No. 16 Cal Poly in the first round, the Shockers lost to an underrated No. 8 Kentucky in the Round of 32. Kentucky went all the way to the championship, where they’d lose to the Connecticut team that had already eliminated both Bembry and Thomas.
In 2015, VanVleet had further honed his offensive game. The Shockers entered as a seven-seed, and he dropped 27 points to dispatch No. 10 Indiana in the first round. Then, he avenged Siakam’s loss to No. 2 Kansas with a 17-point effort that sent the Jayhawks packing. The next test was No. 3 Notre Dame, where even 25 points from the Rockford, Ill. native couldn’t save Wichita State.
For his finale, VanVleet led his 11th-ranked Wichita State team to a win in the First Four over Vanderbilt and a Round of 64 upset over No. 6 Arizona before losing to No. 3 Miami. After 141 college basketball games, his Wichita State career was over. Unbeknownst to him, he’d be an NBA Champion in three years.
Paul Watson – Fresno State Bulldogs – 2016
You didn’t think I’d forget about Paul Watson did you?
A four-year player at Fresno State, Watson only played in one tournament game. After winning the Mountain West Tournament, the Bulldogs entered March Madness as a 14 seed.
Awaiting them was Jakob Poeltl, Kyle Kuzma, and the rest of No. 3 Utah. The Utes handled their business, 80-69. Utah would go no further, however, as they were memorably upset by No. 11 Gonzaga in dominant fashion, 82-59.
And so concluded the complete March Madness history of the Toronto Raptors. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. If your bracket looks anything like mine, you needed a break from watching this year’s tournament anyways!