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Crimson Query with Mid-Major Madness

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Benjamin Miraski, editor of SB Nation blog Mid-Major Madness, stopped by to give his thoughts on Wichita State, the Hoosiers' NCAA Tournament opponent on Friday. In the Q&A, Benjamin and I discuss how the Shockers did this season, how the potent Wichita State backcourt matches up with Indiana's, and how coach Gregg Marshall has been so successful.

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1. Wichita State! Nice to be playing you guys for the first time since 1989. The Shockers went 28-4 this season and won the Missouri Valley regular season title. How do Wichita State fans feel about how this season has progressed thus far?


​Benjamin:​ Overall, the season has been a pretty good one for Wichita State. Fans knew that this would be a little more difficult with the losses inside and with Cleanthony Early leaving from out on the wing. There have been some growing pains, especially with the freshmen and transfers, and they have made some games a little more interesting than they should have been.

Losing in the MVC tournament wasn't ideal but there was still another regular season championship in the Valley, and another NCAA Tournament.

2. What was the fanbase's reaction when they saw that Indiana would be their first-round opponent on Sunday night? And do Shockers fans feel disrespected as a 7-seed this year?


​Benjamin: Fans didn't really have a lot of time to react to seeing Indiana matched up with them. All attention was immediately to the potential Round of 32 opponent in Kansas. That said, it is good to get a team with a lineage in the opening game. On first glance Indiana is a team that Wichita State matches up well against, so that is a bonus.

As far as the 7-seed goes, that hasn't been easy to take. When you look at Butler with a 6-seed, or even who the other 7-seeds across the country are, it is clear that the Shockers got a little hosed in the seeding. But so did Northern Iowa, so the committee didn't value the Valley as highly as they probably should have. In general, there is a strong feeling that the Big 12 got a little too much benefit of the doubt.

Still, the Shockers could have done themselves a little better by winning on the road against Utah or Northern Iowa.​

3. If Wichita State defeats IU, they will likely play Kansas in the next round. That couldn't have been a coincidence, right? Describe the dynamics of this in-state "rivalry" between the two schools.


​Benjamin:​ Everyone wants there to be coincidences, but in reality it is just something that finally worked out based on the seedings and the fact that both schools are in the Midwest and near Omaha.

The truth is that fans are super excited to get a shot at Kansas if it happens, and a chance to prove that they are not the little brothers. There is a very strong feeling that Kansas is dodging the Shockers during the nonconference season, something that would be good for basketball and good for the state of Kansas.

Let's say this. If New Mexico State wins, no one is going to be crying for Kansas, but they might be crying that they missed a shot to play them.​

4. Gregg Marshall has been a tremendous hire for Wichita State, leading the team to an undefeated record before the tournament last season, and a Final Four berth the season before. What has made Marshall so effective as coach of the Shockers?


​Benjamin: Marshall is like Phil Jackson. He is all business on the sidelines, he gets you to buy into the system that obviously works, and (like Phil if he were a college coach) he always ups the game in recruiting. You look at the players that he has brought in through transfers at the Division 1 level and through JUCOs and you are hard pressed to find a bust. He gets quality minutes out of guys that have no reason to be on the floor. He is just the master motivator.

Bottom line, his personality is a perfect fit for this team and this fan base, and no, you all can't steal him.​

5. Marshall comes across as a very likeable guy too - funny, self-deprecating, and not having as big of an ego as other coaches in the profession. At age 52, he's not a spring chicken but also not nearing the end of his career either. Is there any chance he would leave Wichita for another position, and what type of coaching job would that be?


​Benjamin: Never say never. There is always a chance that anyone would look at another opportunity and say, "Sure, I want that challenge." But Wichita is a special place to coach, and Marshall knows that.

He took a chance, leaving Winthrop where he had this same kind of success to come to Wichita. Anything else would have to be the perfect opportunity, and probably the last move he would ever have to make. He would have to know he was safe there.

I just don't see that same kind of safety coming at a Power 5 school, so it would be pretty shocking if he did leave for something.

You ask these questions as if you are ... unhappy with your current coach.

6. How do the Shockers' three veteran starting guards - Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton - match up with IU's three-guard starting lineup of Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., and Robert Johnson?


​Benjamin:​ No offense, but this is arguably one of the best three guard lineups you are going to find. Cotton is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Valley. VanVleet was only player of the year last year, and if he stays, could be up for DPOY next year. Baker is an amazing shooter who can play the point too and is just overall stronger this season than last.

There isn't a lot these guys can't do, and very few backcourts that can measure up to them. ​Although Ferrell and Blackmon Jr are really good at holding onto the ball, get ready to facepalm a few times Friday. These guys have the ability to do magic.

7. Like Indiana, Wichita State is a smaller team on the whole. How have 6-7 big men Darius Carter and Shaq Morris been able to match up with opposing big men this year, and could they give Indiana trouble in the frontcourt?


​Benjamin:​ So yeah, if there is a spot where Wichita State could be better it would be inside. Darius Carter and Shaq Morris can carry this team as long as they can stay on the floor. Morris is like a foul magnet though, and Carter could be hit and miss depending on the strength of the inside players on the opposing team.

Carter can be a beast though, and has carried the Shockers a few times this season. Given Indiana's height issues, he could cause you some trouble.

Plus you are going to see Rashard Kelly and Bush Manukota come into the game at some point. Either one can be an X-factor in this one. They are not 100 percent reliable, but they can be brilliant in flashes.​

8. Wichita State is ranked #15 in defense nationally by KenPom. How do they play to stop Indiana's #10-ranked offense?


​Benjamin: It all begins with the guards and the pressure defense they provide. Expect them to pick up the offense right about half court and begin the pressure. Cotton and VanVleet have great hands and are super fast, almost as if they anticipate every move before the offensive player makes it.

Inside might be a bit more ​iffy but Carter still has the ability to turn shots away along with Ron Baker on the wing. 
This is all about turnovers though, and the ability for Wichita State to turn those around into easy baskets early.

9. Let's say I were to find myself in the city of Wichita for a weekend. What would be the major attractions that I would need to check out?


​Benjamin: ​Grab a beer at River City Brewing company.

Catch a Shockers basketball game (good luck getting tickets though), or if it is the spring, definitely see one of the Shocker baseball games.

For the engineer types, the Kansas Aviation Museum.

And not to be silly, the zoo.​

10. Prediction time: Who wins on Friday afternoon, and by how much?


​Benjamin: Wichita State wins this one by 8​, 75-67.

Thanks, Benjamin! The #7 seed Shockers play the #10 seed Hoosiers in Omaha on Friday afternoon. The game will tip off around 2:45pm on CBS.