Wichita State has been one of the most talked about bubble teams this basketball season, and after Sunday's Selection Show they are dancing, but their dance card is complicated.
For the fifth straight year, Gregg Marshall's team is playing in the NCAA tournament, but for the first time, they will play in one of the First Four games. The Shockers (24-8) had to make a quick trip after receiving word Sunday that they are in the Big Dance; they must get packed and travel to Dayton for a game with the Vanderbilt Commodores
Wichita State has been idle since their loss in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Tournament. Meanwhile the Commodores lost in the first round of the SEC tournament Thursday, finishing the regular season with a record of 19-13.
Gregg Marshall's teams have won seven of 11 NCAA Tournament games during this four year dancing streak and are 12-5 in post season tournament games over the past six years.
The Shockers will be battling an underachieving Vandy squad. A preseason top 25 team, the Commodores instead battled inconsistency this season finishing in a three-way tie for third in the SEC at 11-7. They were bounced in the opening round of the conference tournament by a Tennessee team they defeated twice in the regular season.
Former Illinois State head coach Kevin Stallings has some viable weapons at his disposal, so matchups will be the key component to this play-in game.
Everyone knows about the great guard play by the Wichita State tandem of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. They are talented and the heart and soul of the Shocker basketball team. Vandy counters with sophomore guard Wade Baldwin IV. He is a triple threat who scores (14.3 ppg), rebounds (4.0) and dishes the rock (5.2).
The biggest issue in this game is how Wichita State will handle 7-0 junior Damian Jones. He averages 14 points and seven rebounds per game. The Shockers will counter with a wave of shorter, but talented post players. The quartet of Shaquille Morris, Anton Grady (both 6-8) and Rauno Nurger (6-10) and Bush Wamukota (6-11) will be charged with slowing down and wearing out Jones.
Depth and bench play will be huge in this contest. The Commodores boast five players averaging at least 8.9 points per game, while the Shockers utilize nine players who play more than 15 minutes per game.
The Shockers' Zach Brown will probably receive the assignment of guarding Matthew Fisher-Davis. The 6-5 wing made 79 threes and grabs almost four rebounds per game.
The winner of this game faces Ryan Anderson and the University of Arizona Wildcats, a 6-seed out of the PAC-12.
This matchup of outstanding guards should be fun to watch. I'll take the Shockers in this one. Baker and VanVleet have been in enough big time games to know how to control the tempo and momentum in a game of this magnitude.
Call it Wichita State 71, Vanderbilt 59.