If there is one thing that John Calipari and Gregg Marshall can agree on, it is that the NCAA Selection Committee does a pretty terrible job in seeding their teams.
Both coaches have complained publicly about their seedings in the murderer's row bracket of the South. Both coaches can agree that it is the penchant of the Selection Committee to try to have cute and interesting matchups rather than a proper seeding and as a result, one team is going to go home in the opening weekend. And that is a shame.
First off, it is ridiculous that the Shockers got a #10 seed. Dayton discovered that and Kentucky will get the toughest second round matchup of any #2 seed. The Shockers come into the game with a 31-4 record and an RPI ranking of #32 per Jerry Palm.
However, if you look at the power rankings that a lot of sites have done, the Shockers were seeded as one of the fifteen toughest teams in the tourney. In the end, it's just another small conference school not getting the respect it deserves.
The roles are reversed in this game. Just three years ago, the Shockers were a #1 seed with a 35-0 record. Kentucky was vastly under-seeded as an #8 seed, and the Shockers saw their perfect dream end in the round of 32 with a 78-76 loss to UK.
Now it is the Shockers turn to prove the Selection Committee was wrong and sent the Wildcats packing way too early.
Let's meet the Shockers.
#1 G - CONNOR FRANKAMP (JR 6'1, 172) 9.0 PPG, 2.7 APG, 1.6 RPG
#11 G - LANDRY SHAMET (FR 6'4, 188) 11.2 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.9 RPG
#1 F - ZACH BROWN (JR 6'6, 215) 7.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 APG
#32 F - MARKIS McDUFFIE (SO 6'8, 212) 11.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.7 APG
#24 C - SHAQUILLE MORRIS (JR 6'8, 265) 9.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 APG
Connor Frankamp does a lot of good things when he is on the basketball court. He hits 44.4% of his three-pointers and two-thirds of his shot attempts are of the three-point variety. He also has an A/TO ratio of slightly over 4.0 and has only fouled 28 times this year. Freshman Landry Shamet has a nice stroke from outside, and he connects on 44.6% of his three-pointers. He shoots over half his shots from long-range, and while he is a good FT shooter, he rarely gets to the line. He also is a solid passer and has a 3.0 A/TO ratio.
Zach Brown started the game against Dayton, and he is a little more versatile player than Willis, although you give up some size. Brown hits 33.6% of his shots from long-range and takes good care of the ball. He hits 40.5% overall. He has been struggling to score over his last five games and has scored 12, 2, 4, 6, and 3 over his last five games.
Markis McDuffie leads the team in scoring and is an inside/outside threat. He is a big enough three-point threat (36.8%) that you have to respect his range, and he can get on a three-point tear and hurt you. Overall, he hits 46.6% and has a nice passing touch for a bigger guy and averages 1.2 steals a game. Shaquille Morris' numbers are pretty impressive given that he only averages 17.7 minutes a game. He is effective around the rim, hitting 52.4% of his shots and he has decent 15-foot range. He also does a good job of altering shots but has been prone to foul trouble.
#21 F - DARRAL WILLIS (JR 6'9, 221) 10.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0,6 APG
#0 F - RASHARD KELLY (JR 6'7, 225) 5.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.2 APG
#20 C - RAUNO NURGER (JR 6'10, 238) 5.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.7 APG
#2 G - DAISHON SMITH (JR 6'1, 175) 4.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.9 APG
#12 G - AUSTIN REAVES (FR 6'5, 179) 4.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.2 APG
Darral Willis is comfortable with either coming off the bench or starting. He is good at scoring inside and hits 54.3% of his shots, and he is pretty good at contesting interior shots. He has limited range and has not been playing as many minutes lately. He has scored in double digits in just one of his last five games. Rashard Kelly provides some rebounding depth and scoring off the bench. He hits 50.3% of his shots.
Rauno Nurger, the import from Estonia, is finally starting to pay some dividends and be a solid contributor. He hits 52.9% overall and while he does not shoot a lot of treys, 48.1% of his three-pointers. Daishon Willis adds defense and passing from the bench. Scoring is a luxury from him, although he is fairly accurate, hitting 41.0% and 38.4% on his three-pointers. He has scored just 7 points in his last four games. Austin Reaves hits 50% of his three-pointers, and the majority of his attempts are three-point attempts. He has not beeing seeing a lot of minutes in tourney play though with just 35 minutes and 6 points in his last five games.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
It's easy to look at the thirty wins by Wichita State and say that their #10 seed was a travesty, but Shockers do not have a strong tournament resume. They were 2-4 against Top 50 teams, and those two wins were against #33 Illinois State. They also lost to Illinois State, as well as Louisville, Oklahoma State, and Michigan State. They were just 1-0 against teams ranked 51-100, so this a team that has not played that many good teams. It's a team that knows how to win, but 14 of those wins were against teams with an RPI of 200 and above.
Also, this is a team with a huge scoring margin of 19.2 and on a 16 game winning streak. It's really hard to judge how good this team is when the teams they are blowing out are not that good.
The numbers never lie, and this is a solid team. They shoot the ball well, hitting 47.2% of their shots and 40.5% of their three pointers. They play good defense holding their opponents to 37.6% and 30.9%. They have a rebounding margin of 9.1 boards, and they create 13.7 turnovers a game. In addition, they have a team A/TO of 1.5. It's also a fairly deep team with ten players averaging over 10 minutes a game and just two with 25 minutes.
This has been a good tournament team under Gregg Marshall. Over the last four tournaments, Wichita State has gone 6-3 in the NCAA, and they have wins over the blueblood programs of Arizona, Indiana, and Kansas. Marshall is not scared to face anyone, and he has instilled that in his teams. And the underdog mentality fits this team well. If Kentucky takes them lightly, they can be in trouble.
However. The numbers do not lie. Wichita State has played the 140th toughest schedule while Kentucky has played the 14th toughest. And due to that easy schedule, this is not a tested Shocker team. They have played just five games all year that was decided by 10 points or less and are 3-2. They are 1-1 in games that are decided by 5 points or less.
Kentucky, on the other hand, has been tested unlike any team in recent memory. This is a Wildcat team that is battle tested, and they do not get rattled. And while the Shockers are a good team, the Wildcats are better at every position. I don't think there is any way that Kentucky takes this game lightly and despite what Gregg Marshall thinks, they do not have an answer for Bam Adebayo. I have respect for the Shockers, but look for a 72-63 Wildcat win.