This is what the state of Kansas wanted… most of the state at least. Wichita State has been pining to play the Jayhawks for a while, but the two sides could never agree on anything, mainly because Kansas had nothing to gain from it. The Shockers will get a chance to prove they’re worthy with a Game here in the Round of 32.
The Jayhawks took care of business in their first Game and covered fairly easy against New Mexico State. With a healthy Perry Ellis back, this is a team that once again resembles one of the best in the nation. Cliff Alexander won’t be returning, but Jamari Traylor and LAnden LUcas are filling in just fine with extra minutes.
Wichita State snuck by Indiana 81-76 in its first Game and is still somewhat of a question mark. They didn’t cover in that Game with a suspicious -6.5 point spread. A win here would validate the Shockers a little because they don’t have many great wins this season. They didn’t challenge themselves in non-Conference play, and when they did, they lost to teams like Utah and George Washington. Beating a struggling Indiana team isn’t exactly validation.
With all that said, Kansas still only opened this Game as a -1.5 point favorite at 5Dimes. Wichita State may only have Four losses, but are these teams really that close to a pick ’em? Let’s take a look.
The Shockers only allowed 56.4 points per Game (9th best in nation) during the regular season, yet really struggled to guard Indiana, probably one of the best offenses they’ve seen all season. Kansas is probably right up there with Indiana. The difference is that they have a bigger post presence with a guy like Perry Ellis. Bill Self will likely want Ellis to get the ball as much as possible early in the Game. It’s a wonder who will be guarding him because Darius Carter will be on LUcas and Traylor. If WSU sticks with their normal starting lineup, guys like Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and Evan Wessel will be used on Ellis. That probably won’t work. Obviously, the Shockers will have to double-team the Kansas big men, and that will in turn leave Frank Mason, Wayne Selden and Kelly OUbre open.
The backcOurt battle will be a lot more even with those guys, but Fred Van Vleet is the guy to watch. He’s the player that can get the Shockers a win after coming off a 27-point performance against the Hoosiers. The difference is that Kansas plays much better defense than the Hoosiers. Van Vleet won’t have free range to the hoop every time he touches the ball. That means Ron Baker is going to need better than a 3-of-13 shooting day as he had against Indiana.
This is a Game in which glue guys have to show up for Wichita State. They are going to be super pumped to play Kansas, but can Darius Carter, Cotton and Wessel do enough on the offensive end?
The backcOurt trio of Mason, Selden and OUbre has really led the Jayhawks this year and that’s going to be an issue for Wichita State after they let Yogi Ferrell do whatever he wanted on Friday. Any one of those Kansas guards can go off for 20 points on a given night, that’s how versatile their group is.
Wichita State is a small underdog and will have to ride passion in this Game because they’ll be giving up a decent amount on the inside and the Jayhawks can match them from the guard spot. Do the Shockers deserve more respect? Kansas will have that answer on Sunday.