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Can the run continue for the No. 9 seeded Shockers? They beat the one and two seeds in the West region so you can't say their Final 4 appearance is undeserved. In a year full of upsets, Wichita State may be pulling off the best run of all. They will get their toughest task of the season with Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
While Wichita State's run has been surprising, Louisville's run has been just as good and was expected. They have run out to big leads on all four of their opponents and currently have a 14-game winning streak. Their last win came by 22 points over a 30-5 Duke Blue Devils team that was supposed to be a real task. Instead, the Cardinals pounded on them in the second half scoring 50 points and looked close to unstoppable.
The Shockers haven't played a team like Louisville yet as their matchups have been pretty kind to them. Gonzaga was a No. 1 seed, but they weren't an outstanding squad by any means. Wins over Pittsburgh and Ohio State were impressive, but both of those offenses played slow-it-down basketball and helped Wichita State control the game in the half court. Louisville will not be the same as they'll put pressure on the ball at all times and love running the floor with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.
The guard play will be super important in this game for the Shockers. Malcolm Armstead, Tekele Cotton and Fred Van Vleet have to take care of the ball. If they don't, the Cardinals could win this game on transition alone. Armstead struggled against the Buckeyes and Aaron Craft only shooting 6-of-21 from the field, but he has been their best play overall in this tournament. The defense of the guards will also be key because Siva and Smith love driving to the hoop and so far, no one has been able to stop them. Against Duke, the two combined for 39 points and zero three-pointers. They both had numerous 'And One's' and free layups, especially in the second half.
Possibly an even harder task for Wichita State will be the frontcourt where Gorgui Dieng lives. Carl Hall's athleticism has been trouble for most of the bigs he's faced in the tourney so far, but Dieng will be something else. Not only does he supply athleticism, but he's also three inches taller than Hall. The Cardinals get the advantage there, but Cleanthony Early vs. Chane Behanan might be where the Shockers force their offense. Early went to work on Deshaun Thomas last game and will likely try to do the same against Behanan. His length, quickness and shooting ability will be a problem for the 250-pound Behanan to keep up with. Plus, while Early gives up size defensively, he has the length to be able to alter anything Behanan puts up.
If WSU can't capitalize on that matchup, they'll need another great shooting performance, similar to that of the Gonzaga game when they hit five straight three-pointers late in the second half. Louisville just contained Duke to four made threes, so you can already see how hard that's going to be. Whether it's Ron Baker, Cotton or Van Vleet, one of them has to get going from long range.
After the dismantling of Duke, the bookmakers put Louisville as a 10-point favorite over Wichita State and it's staying around there. That's a respectable line just because of how well the Cardinals are playing right now and as seen with the matchups, not a whole lot points in the Shockers favor. While they have held every opponent thus far to under 38 percent field goal shooting, Louisville is another story. They have a full lineup to worry about which brings easy buckets and open shooters. The Shockers will need to continue that defensive prowess to go along with some hot shooting to keep up with Louisville. Otherwise, the score could look very similar to the Duke game.
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