As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 28-4 (17-1 MVC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 113.0 (20th)/92.9 (15th)
Seed: Midwest No. 7
Impact player: Fred VanVleet, junior, guard. 12.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 120.8 offensive rating
The Case For: The Shockers will have no shortage of motivation in their bracket. Coach Gregg Marshall won't let his team look past its opening game against Indiana, and if it wins, he won't need much of a pregame speech to get his players excited to face Kansas. The Jayhawks and Shockers are in-state rivals that never face off because of Kansas's refusal to play Wichita State. If everything breaks right, the Shockers could also have a shot at ending Kentucky's unbeaten season one year after the Wildcats handed Wichita State its first and only loss of the season in a Round of 32 thriller.
But before we go filling out the bracket, let's explain why the Shockers are a threat to make a run in this tournament. After reaching the Final Four in 2013 and starting last season 35-0, they are used to playing in pressure-packed environments. And in a tournament often dominated by guards, their backcourt—including VanVleet, sharpshooting junior Ron Baker and two-time All-Glue team member Tekele Cotton—is as good as any team's in the country. VanVleet, who averages 5.3 assists per game, is one of the nation's best passing point guards; Baker leads the team in scoring at 15.0 points per game and has shot 39.4% from three-point range; and Cotton is one of the nation's best defenders. Wichita State also holds opponents to 45.2% effective field goal percentage, 33rd in the nation.
The Case Against: The Shockers have issues both in the paint and beyond the arc. Senior forward Darius Carter is only 6'7", making him the tallest regular for a team that is 243rd in average height, according to kenpom.com. Wichita State also shoots a pedestrian 36.2% from three. It entered the NCAA tournament on a bit of a sour note too, losing to Illinois State in the semifinals of Arch Madness and missing an opportunity for a grudge match with Northern Iowa, a team they'd split with in the regular season.
Despite the emergence of the Panthers, the Missouri Valley would still never be confused for a Power Five conference, and the Shockers were not overly impressive against the teams they did face from those leagues. They lost in overtime to Utah on Dec. 3, beat Seton Hall, which finished 16-15, by nine on Dec. 9 and needed a furious rally to edge Alabama, an NIT team, by one point at home on Dec. 16. Aside from Northern Iowa, the Utes are the only team Wichita State played all season that is in the field of 68.
SI prediction: Beat Indiana in the Round of 64, beat Kansas in the Round of 32, beat Butler in the Sweet 16, lose to Kentucky in the Elite Eight