When? 2:45 PM, CBS
Vegas? WICHITA STATE -5.5
Pomeroy? WICHITA STATE by 6, 27% chance of Indiana victory
YOUR RIVALRY AIN'T OUR PROBLEM
So, apparently, Kansas has been ducking Wichita State for some time when it comes to scheduling a basketball series. Indiana fans can surely empathize with the difficulties of getting a rivalry game scheduled, especially when dumb factors rise above what should be paramount: to get the game played. I don't know the specifics of the dynamics between WSU and Kansas, and won't continue to pretend to, it definitely seems like something you could bring up in an Omaha bar later this week to a guy in a Shockers pullover and 45 minutes later you'll know everything there was to know about it.
Anyway, there's already been a smattering of articles, tweets, and quotes about how INCREDIBLY INTERESTING it'll be for Wichita and Kansas to meet up in the Round of 32 and play the game that fans have wanted to see for a couple of decades. Which they have every right to, Indiana fans are familiar with the rhetoric that cropped up about a possible rematch with Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen back in 2012, and that game needed each team to win TWICE before that would happen. So I've got no issue with fans wanting to throw out some what-ifs and I-hopes.
You'll have to excuse us for not sharing the sentiment, though.
It's certainly not anything personal, the Kansas-Wichita State game would be the single most compelling Round of 32 matchup and it would not be close. I wish Indiana wasn't a hurdle that had to be cleared in order to make it happen, but that's the task at hand. So my hope is Kansas and Wichita work out their differences and renew their head-to-head on the hardwood next year during the regular season. Until then, the Shockers are more than welcome to look ahead to a potential date with Kansas in the next round.
Seriously, we'll take this win any way we can get it.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (Offense)||54.6% (19th)||17.1% (56th)||35.3% (40th)||32.7% (286th)|
|WICHITA STATE (Defense)||45.2% (33rd)||21.6% (34th)||27.0% (33rd)||36.8% (182nd)|
|INDIANA (Defense)||50.5% (232nd)||16.1% (328th)||31.2% (179th)||32.1% (68th)|
|WICHITA STATE (Offense)||50.7% (95th)||15.2% (8th)||34.8% (55th)||35.4% (221st)
There's not a lot of holes in this Shockers' squad. They've got the 20th most efficient offense and the 15th most efficient defense and the only thing they're even remotely bad at is getting to the free throw line on offense and preventing guys from going to the line on defense. It should be noted that they're just a tick below average at defending the perimeter (187th nationally) and even smaller than the undersized Hoosiers (275th in effective height). The past two iterations of the Shockers (2013 Final Four team, 2014 undefeated regular season team) were much larger than this iteration. No one playing at least 15% of the team's available minutes is taller than 6-7 and their starting lineup contains four guys 6-4 or shorter. There's no question that the Shockers are a talented squad, but it's worth noting that they're one of the only teams in the entire field that aren't capable of exploiting Indiana's greatest weakness with a bevy of big men in the post.
Granted, Indiana's lack of interior defense manifests itself in plenty of other ways. The Hoosiers' guards have been beaten off the dribble all season long and Wichita State has plenty of talented guards and wings to exploit those match-ups. It starts with Fred VanVleet, the junior point guard is in the middle of everything the Shockers like to do, with an assist rate of 36.1%, a sterling turnover rate (14.0%) while also hitting 38% of his three-point shots. The battle between him and Yogi Ferrell has the potential to be legendary, and the thoughts of those two trading haymakers for the final few minutes of the game like Yogi did with D'Vauntes Rivera-Smith against Georgetown has me foaming at the mouth.
Ron Baker, who probably spends the offseason running a surf shop he inherited from his uncle, remains the team's primary perimeter threat, taking 187 3PT shots and hitting 38.5% of them. His offensive rating is good for 95th nationally and his 6-4 frame gives him a lot of space to get a shot off with. I'm sure James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson will take their turns on Baker, and it will be very important to deny him the catch and make him work for open looks.
Tekele Cotton is a senior wing but uses less possessions than of the other guards. He's taken 106 3PT shots this year, and that may not be such a great thing for Wichita since he's only hitting 29.2% of them. Like his fellow Shockers, he doesn't turn the ball over and dishes out his fair share of assists but his eFG% of 46.7 makes him, on paper, one of the less dangerous options in Wichita's backcourt.
Darius Carter, standing at 6-7, will be the the important match-up down low. He's not a pure post guy, as only 47% of his shots come at the rim while 52% come from mid-range. He's got a good feel for the baseline jumper from sides of the rim and will be a big test for Indiana's center-by-committee, who will have to step out from the paint and contest jumpers without fouling.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR
- Is Hanner Mosquera-Perea healthy enough to contribute? Most of the news revolving around Perea has been positive and it sounds like he'll be available for Friday's tilt, but how much will he play and how effective can he be? Feels like we've been asking this question all year, whether it's a result of injury, inconsistency, or just plain ol' wondering when Perea will put all his God-given tools together. The knee brace he had on when Alex Olah flopped into him likely saved his season, but can he be effective enough to help Indiana save theirs? Perea's the most natural shot blocker Indiana has, and could certainly help turn back Wichita's driving wings and guards while helping the Hoosiers add a scoring dimension down low on an undersized Wichita unit.
- How will these young Hoosiers handle a high-pressure environment? Yes, Omaha is technically a neutral site, but Indiana should be preparing for a hostile atmosphere as the Shockers faithful are likely to come out in droves for this game. The Hoosiers are the youngest team in the field and their wits will be tested from tipoff. It's been discussed to death how important this team's jumpshots are to their success, and if the pressure of the environment forces them into rushing their form or making mistakes, they could be well out of the game by halftime.
- Can the defense build on its Big Ten Tournament performance? No, Indiana's defense was not great in the conference tournament, but it was much better than they had been down the stretch. They managed to hold Maryland to 45.7% on their two-point shots, but undid a lot of that good by allowing the Terrapins to parade to the free throw line and playing uncharacteristically poor defense on the perimeter, a spot the Hoosiers have actually been decent at defending this season, ranking 90th nationally. Again, when the offense is rolling (and granted, that hasn't been a given lately), the Hoosiers only need a handful of stops to survive and advance.
- Are the legs going to be fresh? I've spent a good part of this season wondering how good this offense would actually be during tournament play when they have to play a couple games relatively close together. The one-day turnaround in the Big Ten Tournament probably played a big factor in the pile of bricks the Hoosiers collected in the second half against Maryland, and they'll have had almost a full week to rest those legs prior to Friday. I'll be watching the freshman, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, in particular, to see if they're dialed in early despite the grind of their first collegiate season weighing down on them.