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Will we get to see a school finish with an undefeated record in the regular season? For Wichita State, it may come down to this game against Indiana State, the hands down second-best team in the Missouri Valley Conference.
These teams already met once before this season with the Shockers coming away at home with a 20-point win. Obviously, you have to put some stock into that game, but WSU has a huge home-court advantage and with this game being played in Terre Haute, the game could look much different.
The Sycamores are a solid 17-5 on the year and are right on the edge of making the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for them, it's looking like without a win against Wichita State or by winning the conference tournament, it won't be enough. Their early road win at Notre Dame isn't looking good enough and outside of that, a home win against Belmont may be their only relevant win. The MVC is a tough conference, but teams beat up on each other, as Indiana State sits in second at 8-2, whereas three other teams are tied for third at 5-5.
As for the Shockers, we've seen them play lazily at times over the last two games, having not really broken games open against Loyola-IL and Evansville. Evansville actually started that game with a 29-14 lead. WSU has had some troubles on the road this year, having gone to overtime at Missouri State. But then again, they also won at Saint Louis and Alabama.
The Shockers were only 3-of-15 from three in the last matchup between these teams, so that's not good news for Indiana State. They killed the Sycamores on the glass with 14 extra boards, though. Their strength and athleticism is a problem for most teams. Chadrack Lufile and Cleanthony Early are at the head of that. Both guys are great rebounders, but both can also score, especially Early who is a great shooter. In the backcourt, Fred VanVleet, Tekele Cotton and Ron Baker can all shoot, but they are also unselfish which makes them hard to defend. And then off the bench Darius Carter and Nick Wiggins are players you can't ignore.
The Sycamores also have a well-rounded squad as well, but don't have the same type of athletes down low. Included is the fact that they don't really have a guy that can mark up with Early. Justin Gant is known better for his shot than being a physical big man, while the shorter Manny Arop at 6-5 will be asked to guard Early at times. Big men like Demetrius Moore and Jake Kitchell will be asked to help on Early, as well as sixth man Khristian Smith, who is actually their fourth-leading scorer.
The backcourt matchup will be enticing and that's somewhere Indiana State can improve on from last game. Dawon Cummings went for 19 points in that last game, but no one else could get anything going. Leading scorer, and overall floor general Jake Odum, had trouble in that last game, getting locked down often by VanVleet and Cotton. Arop and Gant will also need to hit their shots after they combined for eight points last matchup.
Both teams know what's at stake here which makes this quite the intriguing game for a of couple mid-majors. Wichita State wants to keep that undefeated record, while Indiana State needs that big win to get noticed for the Big Dance.
Predicted Score Wichita St 77 Indiana State 64
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