Wichita St. vs. Notre Dame
Time: 7:15 EDT
Opening Odds: WIC -1.5
Wichita State posts an impressive record seemingly every season, as a result of an ultra weak schedule. Deceiving 28-4 record aside, the Missouri Valley Conference juggernaut will enter its second round matchup with Indiana as 1.5-point favorites according to college basketball oddsmakers at Bovada. The total is set at 137, and the game will be aired at 7:15 PM ET.
The Wichita State Shockers rolled through Conference play with 17 straight victories before an inexplicable loss to the Illinois State Redbirds. The Shockers are led by Ron Baker’s 15 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, and he also sees a team-high 32 minutes per night. The 6’3” junior guard has stepped up into the role of a bonafide leader now, increasing his shot attempts from 8.9 last season as a sophomore to a robust 11.3 attempts per game this season.
Baker (ordinarily) is a deadly three point shooter, hoisting six per game at a 39.4 percent clip.
Compounding Baker’s season ending struggles is the fact that The Shockers don’t really excel at any one facet of the game. It ranked 108th in points per game, 108th in rebounds and 102nd in field goal percentage.
Really, the one thing that can save this team is likely to sink it. Wichita State boasts a very solid 36.2 percent three-point percentage but it also shoots a woeful 68 percent from the strip.
Between a heavy reliance on a struggling shooter, a live and die by the three style, and a team that can’t close games at the line, the makings of an upset are most certainly here. But it isn’t really an upset according to college basketball oddsmakers, giving the Shockers their fair shake for knocking off the Jayhawks of Kansas.
Notre Dame finished the regular season 29-5 with a 14-4 mark in the ACC. It drew the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region and a second round matchup with No. 14 Northeastern. No problem. Similarly, Notre Dame knocked off No. 2 seeded Kansas 78-66 to arrive at the Sweet 16. Few expected the Irish to fare so well against one of the toughest teams in the tournament.
Notre Dame closed its season in impressive fashion, notching a 90-82 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC Championship game. The Irish went on a late run, outscoring UNC 26-3 in the second half spurt as Jerian Grant came through with a big 24-point game for the Irish. All five starters scored in double-figures and the Irish also got 20 points from Pat Connaughton on 4 of 5 three-point shooting, as the Irish hit 10 of 20 from distance in the game and got to the line 32 times to knock down 28.
Those two features alone are going to make Notre Dame very tough to contend with, because it can rely on easy points from the stripe and consistent three-point shooting (yet without being necessarily a “live and die by the three” kind of team).
The Irish are deadly accurate from distance, nonetheless, knocking down 39 percent as a team. Connaughton alone hits 43.6 percent , while ranking second on the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game. Grant leads the way with 16.8 points per game, and he’s also dishing out an outstanding 6.6 assists per contest. The 6’5” senior guard had struggled somewhat before the UNC contest, having scored 13 points or less in three of his previous four games prior to the outing.
Not only did he tally 24 points in the win over North Carolina, but he also dropped 10 dimes while committing just two turnovers. On the season, he’s good for a 3.3:1 assist/turnover ratio, and that well composed play should definitely bode well for the Irish. He’s experienced, steady and a good scorer—all basically three traits that are prerequisites from a floor general if a team is to advance deep in March.