Pick – Analysis
This is a classic underrated vs. overrated matchup, at least in the eyes of the public. No one expected Indiana to grab as low as a 10-seed and most people projected Wichita State to be around a 5-seed. And now, they play each other.
The Hoosiers have struggled as of late and kind of backed into the Tournament losing Four of their last five Games, and not having won back-to-back Games since January. Their main problem is a lack of any real defense, whether in man or zone. This team has early-season wins over SMU, Pittsburgh and Butler, but also lost to Eastern Washington at home.
This is not the same Wichita State team that we saw a year ago so keep that in mind. The Shockers lost their toughest two non-Conference Games against Utah and George Washington, and their best wins were against Tulsa and Alabama. That’s not saying much. Sure, they finished with the best record in the MVC, but split with Northern Iowa and eventually lost in the semis of the MVC Tournament to Illinois State.
The best matchup in this Game — by far — is Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell against Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet. Both are juniors and extremely vital to their team’s chances of advancing past this Game. Ferrell is more of a scorer, but when needed VanVleet can take over, as seen in multiple 20-point Games this year. Whoever wins this matchup could easily decide the Game. And while Ferrell is probably the better offensive player, his defense is lackadaisical at times, which often costs his team.
Wichita State’s leading scorer Ron Baker could be matched up with Indiana’s freshman phenom James Blackmon Jr. Baker is a hard-nosed player that always works for his shot, but can also take it to the hole. Blackmon can be really good, but is still a little raw. When he’s on, watch out, but if he’s struggling, he’s a virus to the rest of the team. That was made evident after dropping 25 points against Northwestern and then only six against Maryland in back-to-back days in the Big Ten Tournament.
The x-factor’s for these teams are going to be huge and will likely keep them in striking distance for much of the Game. Troy Williams struggles with consistency much like Blackmon, but he kind of singled-handily kept Indiana in their last Game against Maryland. Nick Zeisloft, three-point gunner and former Illinois State man, has plenty of experience against the Shockers and could play a big role. Wichita State doesn’t bring deadly three-point shooters to the table, but they do bring experience with Evan Wessel, Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter. Those guys have experienced Wichita State’s last couple Tournament runs.
This is going to be a fun Game with plenty of points. Wichita State is a solid favorite here, mainly because of the overrated/underrated factor as talked about before. But completely discarding the Hoosiers here would be a mistake. They may be inconsistent, but if Ferrell goes all out and Blackmon plays his Game, this can be a good team. Don’t forget they once beat Ohio State, Maryland and at Illinois in a Four-Game period this season. But can they put it all together when it matters most? The result could decide Tom Crean’s future.