(7) Wichita State v. (10) Indiana
Time: 2:45 PM ET, TV: CBS
Spread: WIC -6
M/L: WIC -250; IND +210
Betting odds c/o Bovada
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 6-point favorites according to college basketball oddsmakers at Bovada. The total is set at 140, and the game will be aired at 2:45 PM ET on CBS.
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 is a deadly three point shooter, hoisting six per game at a 39.4 percent clip. He’s struggled of late, though. Baker averaged just 11.5 points over the past two contests while shooting 9 of 23 from the field and just 3 of 13 from three-point range. If that cold streak continues, the Indiana Hoosiers could make an attractive bet for those looking for a big moneyline score.
Compounding Baker’s 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.
That isn’t to say Indiana hasn’t had its problems, either. The team dropped five of its final seven games, including losses to Northwestern and Iowa, both teams well within the reach of Indiana. It closed the season with a loss to Maryland in the Big Ten semis, but that was rather predictable given the Hoosiers .500 record in Conference play. Indiana has a trio of effective scorers in Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams, all of whom average 13 points per game or better. But Ferrell is the key to Indiana sneaking past the Shockers in this game. He’s a 6’0” junior guard who keeps his turnovers down (just 1.9 per game) while dishing out nearly five assists per game. He’s also a very effective free throw shooter at 85.4 percent this season, another key feature in tournament play. If Indiana can keep this close, Ferrell could effectively run clock because the Shockers won’t want to foul someone that automatic from the line.
Bottom line: Both these teams are not playing their best basketball of late and will need this game to get back on track before advancing to the third round. Ferrell gets up over 12 shots per game and hits over 40 percent from three point range on 5.8 attempts per game. Both these teams are similar, struggling, and yet, it should be a closely contested contest that bettors will need to contemplate before considering betting on a very strange line. A moneyline bet on Indiana would not be a foolish one, for though the Hoosiers are six-point underdogs, its strengths may bode far better in an NCAA tournament game. And also, this game may very well be a tale of turnovers and three-point shooting. The team that can control the ball and consistently get its shooters good looks wins this one. Forgive that for sounding over-reductionist, but these teams are far more evenly matched than a six-point live betting line would seem to indicate.