7. Wichita State (28-4, 17-1/Missouri Valley)– The Shockers were severley under-seeded in the NCAAs, and while that’s unfortunate for them, it might be a bigger problem for Kansas and Indiana. Wichita State has two All-American candidates at guard in juniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Both have been a large part of the most successful era in school history, as they’ve played in the Final Four and helped lead the team to a 34-0 regular season record and No. 1 seed last year.
This year’s squad only finished 28-4, with two of those losses coming on the road at Utah and Northern Iowa. (Not many schools come away with wins in those venues). It may not have the size or skill up front that past Shockers teams have had (no more Cleanthony Early), but 6-7 forward Darius Carter isn’t a pushover at 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Guard play is paramount in the NCAA Tournament, and you could argue that no team in the nation has better guards than Wichita State. And don’t forget about Gregg Marshall–who may be the most coach in college basketball.
In short, all of the pieces are in place for this team to make another run to the Sweet 16–if not further.
7th Points Allowed (55.8)
78th Steals per game (7)
81st Assists per game (13.9)
10. Indiana (20-13, 9-9/Big Ten)–As under-seeded as Wichita State might be at 7, the Hoosiers might be just as over-seeded at 10. Indiana struggled down the stretch in Big Ten play, going 2-5 in their final seven games and losing at Northwestern.
Indiana doesn’t have many terrible losses, and they do have a few nice wins–including against SMU, Maryland, Ohio State and Butler. Still, this had the feel of an NIT team–or at least a team that should be playing its first game in Dayton.
Junior point guard Yogi Ferrell (16.1 ppg, 5 apg) is the heartbeat of this club, and freshman James Blackmon Jr. (15.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) can get hot and carry the team at times. The duo combined for 46 points on 16-of-24 shooting in the win over Maryland. 6-7 sophomore Troy Williams (13.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is another offensive threat.
One big thing Indiana has going for it: this team can score, ranking 18th in the nation at 77.5 points per game. They just don’t play a whole lot of defense, giving up 71.4 per.
18th Points per game (77.5)
48th Field Goal Percentage (.466)
298th Points Allowed (71.4)
PREDICTION: Indiana has the potential to get hot from deep and make a run at the Sweet 16. They’ve also got the guards to do so in Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. Whoever wins this first game has got a great chance at knocking off Kansas in the Round of 32, as the Jayhawks aren’t whole and aren’t playing their best basketball of the season. We’re betting on Wichita State, which has plenty of tournament experience and will take a chip on its shoulder into this first weekend, especially if it faces in-state rival KU, which refuses to play the Shockers in the regular season.