The No. 7-seeded Wichita State Shockers (28-4; 17-1) seek to get off to a hot start in a second-round Midwest-region NCAA tournament matchup against the No. 10-seeded Indiana Hoosiers (2-13; 9-9) on Friday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. The Shockers have an experienced squad and will face an Indiana team limping into the postseason.
The Hoosiers have lost nine of their last 15 games, and four of their last five. It's been a struggle for Indiana leading into the tournament. The Shockers, on the other hand, return five players from last year’s team that was unbeaten before falling to Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Although Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall discounted that experience.
“I just witnessed UAB, which probably has zero NCAA tournament experience, beat Iowa State, which has tons of NCAA experience,” he said to reporters. “"Once the ball is tossed, I don't think it means that much at all. It's just another game."
The Shockers will likely rely on guard duo Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Baker leads the team in scoring at 15 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds per game. VanVleet has a well-rounded game, averaging 12.7 points, 5.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
Indiana will likely counter with a talented guard duo of their own in Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. Senior Ferrell averages 16.1 points and 4.9 assist, while Blackmon Jr. adds 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. They’ll have their hands full in a Wichita State team that many pundits expect to pull out the win. Indiana coach Tom Crean commented on the gap in tournament experience between the two teams.
“We can’t do anything about that,” he told reporters. “We have to do a great job of matching up with them.”
The matchup will pit a solid Indiana offense against a stingy Shockers defense. The Hoosiers score 77.5 points per game, ranked No. 18 in the country. Wichita State allows an average 55.8 points per game, ranked No. 7 in the country.
Indiana might have played a tougher slate of games to reach the tournament. That could help them counteract Wichita State’s substantial advantage in experience. The Shockers are also known for being a tough team that battles every possession, making life hard for the opposition. Indiana will have to match that mindset.
“There doesn't look like there is any trepidation, any nervousness, any of that when they play,” Crean said to reporters about the Shockers.” They're a very, very confident group. And for one day we've got to have that same level of confidence like that. Hopefully our league and nonconference schedule and things like that prepare us for that.
The Hoosiers have played 17 game against teams that made the NCAA tournament, while the Shockers have played just four such games. The game will pit a confident, experienced squad against a team that had to claw its way in. It might prove to be a interesting matchup.
Start Time: 2:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Live Stream: Watch online at March Madness Live
Odds: Wichita State is a six-point favorite, according to bovada.lv.
Prediction: Indiana might be an underrated team, despite their recent struggles. Most are picking the Shockers to win, but the Hoosiers have played in a number of tough games this season. They also have solid guards to try and stop Baker and VanVleet. In the end, Wichita’s stingy defense and trademark grit wins the day.
Wichita State over Indiana, 72-68