Our prize for defeating the Kansas State Wildcats is — a date with the #1 seed in the Midwest Region, the Wichita State Shockers. This is the game that we have all been waiting for, the true test of Kentucky's recent improvement. This is the game that can redeem most of what went wrong late in the season for this talented, but beleaguered Kentucky basketball team.
About Wichita State:
- Location: Wichita, KS
- Conference: Missouri Valley Conference
- Head Coach:
- Gregg Marshall (since 2007)
- NCAA Appearances: 11
- Most recent NCAA appearance: 2014
- Most recent NCAA win: 2014
- Founded: 1895
- Enrollment: 8,309
- Last season's record: 30-9, 12-6
Source: Basketball State
Season so far for Wichita State:
Season record: 35-0, 18-0
Everybody who knows anything about college sports knows that the Wichita State Shockers are the only undefeated team left in the NCAA Division I. The shockers have wins over three at-large NCAA teams this season: BYU, Tennessee, and Saint Louis. Otherwise, they have only 8 wins against teams in the Ken Pomeroy top 100. They have, by far, the weakest schedule strength of any #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With that said, Wichita State proved last year, when they got to the Final Four and lost to eventual champ Louisville by four points, that they deserved to be a Final Four team. This year's Shockers team is arguably better than that one, although the schedule last season for the Shockers was substantially more difficult, so the comparison isn't clear.
Kentucky and Wichita State have never met before this year's NCAA Tournament.
|Fred Van Vleet||S*||So.||28||4||3||8||1||0||1||0.200||1.000||0.000|
|John Robert Simon||R||Fr.||5||2||0||0||0||0||0||0.000||1.000||0.000|
|Rank and Records||UK||WSU|
|Strength of Schedule||#2||#121|
|RPI Top 50||5-6||3-0|
Wichita State Team Notes
Wichita State is a very efficient offensive and defensive team. They are an execution team that will remind you very much of the Florida Gators.
The Shockers' defense is outstanding, holding opponents to under 92 points/100 possessions
Wichita State is an outstanding free-throw shooting team at 73%. Putting them on the line is not a plan.
The Shockers are not a small team, but they aren't a particularly big team either. Their tallest player is 6'9", but they have two players at that size and both are over 250#.
Wichita State is a very good rebounding team.
If WSU has a weakness, it is 3-point shooting, and even that isn't very weak at 35%.
Wichita State Player notes
Cleanthony Early is an outstanding player. He ranks high in every meaningful statistical category for a power player, rebounds the ball well, blocks shots, and draws fouls.
Fred Van Vleet, in addition to the being the leader of the team on the floor, is a deadly 3-point shooter and the most efficient offensive player on the team. He's also an outstanding defender, leading the team in steals.
Tekele Cotton, Van Vleet's backcourt mate, is also an outstanding defender and a good 3-point shooter at 37%
Ron Baker, another on of WSU's super sophs, is yet another deadly shooter in the backcourt and draws a ton of fouls, and is second in steals.
Chadrack Lufile is one of the best offensive rebounders in the nation.
- Fred Van Vleet vs. Andrew Harrison — Van Vleet is one of the best point guards in the nation this year, and Andrew Harrison isn't. Not only that, Andrew has a right elbow injury that could seriously impact his ability to play. Harrison's size gives him some advantage, but with the injury, that is significantly mitigated.
- Tekele Cotton vs. Aaron Harrison — Cotton is a good shooter and a dangerous player who loves to get to the rim. Andrew Harrison has been getting better game by game defensively, and his offense has also been improving.
- Ron Baker vs. James Young — Baker is more of a spot-up shooter, but he's also a good defender and Young has been very loose with the ball lately. However, Young has a vast size advantage, and will be able to get a shot anytime he wants it, and if he decides to defend, Baker could struggle
- Cleanthony Early vs. Julius Randle — This is an incredible matchup between experience and youth. Early is a multi-dimensional player who can shoot inside and out, rebound the ball, and just flat do it all. he will seriously challenge Randle, and he's good enough defensively to stop the bigger Randle inside. Randle is quick enough to stay with Early, and is good enough offensively to make Early work very hard.
- Kedeem Coleby vs. Dakari Johnson — Coleby is not quite big enough to match up well with Johnson, but he's an experienced senior who knows what he's about and works hard on both sides of the ball. Johnson has been struggling a bit lately offensively, but if he brings his A-game tomorrow, he has an edge.
Both teams have deep, talented benches. Nick Wiggins, brother of the more famous Andrew, is a solid senior reserve who can slash to the basket and rebound the ball.Evan Wessel is a younger player who likes to do the dirty work inside and defend on the wing. Chadrack Lufile is a strong rebounder and defender, and the biggest guy on the Shocker team. They match up well with Kentucky's bench of Willie Cauley-Stein, Jarrod Polson, and Alex Poythress.
While the matchup seems very equal player to player, there is no doubt which team plays better team basketball, and that is Wichita State. The shockers are a mature bunch who just execute their game plan to perfection. They won't dazzle you with their individual skill, size, or athleticism, but they have enough of all of that to win any game against any foe in the nation, including Kentucky.
The Wildcats will have to bring their best game of the season in order to pull off the victory against WSU. The Wildcats are bigger, longer, and slightly more athletic, but their advantages pale in comparison to the sharpness of the WSU teamwork. What does work in Kentucky's favor is that WSU has never faced a team remotely this big and athletic. Tennessee was the closest they came, and although the Vols are much better now than when WSU played them, they are not as long and athletic as Kentucky, and Tennessee was competitive with them even then, and on the road.
To win this game, Kentucky needs to move the ball well, and force the Shockers to foul them on penetration. Kentucky will not be able to dominate the Shockers like they did Kansas State on the boards, as the Shockers are much more fundamentally sound, even if they are undersized. I keep comparing WSU to Florida, and it is extremely apt. They don't turn the ball over, they don't beat themselves, and they work for good shots until they get one. They defend hard every possession, they don't make stupid mistakes or take bad shots, and they can run if they need to. WSU differs from Florida mainly in that they are much smaller overall.
The question is, can Kentucky turn their biggest advantages in size and rebounding ability into a victory? To do so, the Wildcats are going to have to shoot it better, make much fewer turnovers, and stop helping their opponent with defensive breakdowns and bad shots. The 'Cats are improving, but there is no time left to improve before this life-or-death test, and Kentucky's point guard is ailing.
This is a tough one folks, I ain't gonna lie.