It’s been three years since Fred VanVleet’s contested three-pointer rang around the rim to end Wichita State’s undefeated season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Now the world wants to see the Shockers get a shot at second round revenge against Kentucky.
It almost happened a year later, but Notre Dame upended Wichita State in the Sweet 16 in Cleveland. Neither team is taking their first round opponents — NKU and Dayton — for granted, but the college basketball talking heads are already eyeing a Sunday afternoon matchup.
No second round matchup is more intriguing to Matt Norlander than the Shockers and the Cats.
The full-circle irony would be the strongest storyline. Three years ago, when Wichita State was undefeated and a No. 1 seed, the Shockers were put in the same bracket as No. 8 Kentucky. It seemed an unfair potential matchup. Kentucky went on to the national title, proving to be under-seeded. Now, second-seeded Kentucky is given a possible second-round matchup with one of the most talented 10-seeds in history. Will Wichita State do this year to Kentucky what Kentucky did in 2014 to Wichita State?
The Sporting News uses their own metric (because more metrics is exactly what college basketball needs) to hype the potential matchup. TSN’s model pushed all their chips in on Wichita State…until they drew Kentucky.
Only three teams in the field would have knocked the Shockers off, using our adjusted Four Factors model which accounts for seeding. Sure enough, one of those schools is their potential second-round opponent (Gonzaga and Villanova are the other two). If it drew just about anyone other than Kentucky in this round, the model would have Gregg Marshall’s team advancing all the way to that Zags matchup in the Final.
The angle from The Washington Post is slightly different, laying out their path to the Sweet 16 by contrasting potential matchups with analytics.
Freshman guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox led the team in scoring (20.4 and 16.1 points per game, respectively) and are at their best when driving to the rim and drawing fouls.
Wichita State is adequate at keeping out of foul trouble – free throws account for 35.3 percent of an opponent’s shot attempts, 180th out of 351 teams – but well below average at defending cuts to the basket, allowing 1.25 points per possession on 66.7 percent shooting, putting them in the bottom 10 percent of the country. And, according to Sagarin, Kentucky should be a two-point favorite over Wichita State, implying just a 44.6 percent win probability for the Shockers.
To add to WaPo’s point about penetrating to get to the free throw line, Fox’s 30 trips to the free throw line during the SEC Tournament are the most in a three-game stretch during his freshman season.
In spite of all the stats and storylines, I believe most of the Big Blue Nation will be Dayton Flyer fans tomorrow night. Kentucky can beat both teams, but Dayton does not bring size and Wichita State brings karma.
Dayton and Wichita State tip-off tomorrow night at 7:10 on CBS.