It was just after 5 p.m. on Sunday that Wichita State found out what seed they would be chosen as, where they would be traveling, and who their first opponent would be. When CBS Selection Show host Greg Gumbel announced that Wichita State would be the 5th seed in the South Bracket, the crowd at Koch Arena burst into cheers. They would be traveling to Portland and face the 12th seeded VCU Rams.
Wichita State faces off in what many believe to be the best 5 vs. 12 seed match up in the tournament. WSU and VCU have a combined 2011 post season record of 10-1. These two teams’ coaches and players both understand how to play tournament ball. VCU is a very strong team, a team that WSU is familiar with. The Shox fell to VCU in last year’s Bracketbuster match up. Some could argue that the last second win over WSU propelled VCU onto their domination of the NCAA Tournament. I won’t rehash the success that VCU had, in detail, because I assume anyone who follows college basketball knew about their historic run last year. But the quick and dirty on VCU is that they were one of the first teams to participate in the first ever expanded 68 team format. They played in one of the play-in games, won it, and then started their march to the Final Four where they ended up losing to Butler.
Don’t be fooled by VCU and their success last year. This is not the same team that made the Final Four. VCU lost 4 seniors from last years’ team. Unlike Wichita State who had a fleet of Juniors ready to step up and become Seniors, VCU did not. By saying that VCU is not last year’s Final Four team is in no way being disrespectful, it’s just a different team, that plays differently. The Rams focus more on defense this year. Both teams are highly efficient on defense, but Wichita State gets the edge with offensive efficiency. Wichita State is ranked 10th in the country in offensive efficiency, and 18th in the country in defensive efficiency. VCU is ranked 26th in the country in defensive efficiency, and 88th in the country in offensive efficiency. So as you can see, the teams are very good on the defensive side of the ball, so expect to see a lot of strategy spent by VCU on how to stop this WSU offensive machine. All efficiency rankings based on www.kenpom.com statistics.
Look for Wichita State to push the tempo of this game, and try to score in transition. When the Shox choose to run their half-court offense, expect for them to try and push it down low to Stutz and Hall. If WSU can establish a good post game, it will always open up the 3 point shot for David Kyles and Joe Ragland. If Ragland can have a big game, expect good things. Joe will be a real match up nightmare for the Rams and I think it’s one of the key’s to victory. Just looking at VCU’s roster, you can see that Wichita State has a massive height advantage over the Rams. Out of their top 8 players with the most minutes per game, only 2 players are taller than 6’9”. DJ Haley who is their starting Center is 7’0” but only plays the first few minutes and then is subbed out. Juvonte Reddic is 6’9” and the only solid big man that VCU has down low. Something tells me that if WSU can pressure them in the post that this game will be a solid outing for Wichita State.
When evaluating the bracket that Wichita State is in, it appears to me that this is either the toughest, or 2nd toughest bracket in the tournament. The simple fact that the number one overall seed, Kentucky being the leader in the bracket is enough to argue that this is one of the tougher brackets to make it through. However when you add in the fifteen other teams, it’s definitely a deep bracket to get through. Teams of note: #2 Duke, #3 Baylor, #4 Indiana, #6 UNLV, #7 Notre Dame, #9 UConn, #10 Xavier, #11 Colorado, #12 VCU, and even #13 New Mexico State is a solid team.
Teams to watch out for that could be sleeper’s in this bracket would be VCU, Colorado, UConn, & Xavier. I previously spoke about VCU, and they’re a dangerous team, don’t count them out. Colorado has been on a tear through the Pac-12 and finished their season winning their conference tournament. They come into the tournament as a hot team, and Tad Boyle has them firing on all cylinders. UConn is UConn. Don’t count them out, ever. They surprised people last year as National Champions, and I don’t expect a repeat, I do think they will get past ISU, and could give Kentucky a run for their money. To round out the sleepers, I’m going with Xavier. They’re big, they’re mean, they’re bruisers. If they get the right match up, they could do some damage and go deep.