Wichita State Shockers vs. Arizona Wildcats: NCAA Tournament First Round Preview and Prediction

Kaleb Tarczewski and the Wildcats figure to have their hands full against the Tournament-tested Shockers

With Tuesday’s First Four victory over Vanderbilt, Wichita State is now 8-3 in the NCAA Tournament since 2013. The Shockers are now the No. 9 team in the country according to Ken Pomeroy, which makes them a terrifying No. 11 seed. Arizona cannot be pleased with its draw; furthermore, the Wildcats have to travel across the country to Providence for this Round of 64 matchup. Can Wichita State go on a prolonged March run yet again?

 

No. 11 Wichita State Shockers (25-8) vs. No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (25-8)

 

When: 9:20 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Where: Dunkin’ Donuts Center (Providence)

TV: TNT

Line: N/A

 

Keys for Wichita State

Wichita State must ride the wave of momentum coming off of a blowout win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday. The No. 1 scoring defense showed up in a big way, especially in the second half where the Shockers limited the Commodores to 20 points. Despite the Shockers’ lack of size they were able to completely remove Vanderbilt center Damian Jones from the game. More of the same will be needed against Arizona’s Ryan Anderson. Wichita State has proven it can lean on defense in big games, but it will need to work to keep pace with Arizona’s high-powered offense (81.2 ppg, No. 19 in the nation). Fred Van Vleet must be a total game manager and limit the turnovers; Wichita cannot afford to let Arizona get easy buckets in transition.

 

Keys for Arizona

This is one of the more experienced Wildcat teams in the past several seasons. Arizona has three senior starters and a crop of key upperclassmen on the bench. None are more important than the frontcourt tandem of Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski. Tarczewski averages nearly a double-double every night out on the floor, and capitalizing on his size mismatch is vital to Arizona’s success. If he can force Wichita State to double him in the low post it could free up the Wildcats’ perimeter players.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is truly a battle of two elite college basketball programs; so don’t let the seeds fool you. Arizona is Ken Pomeroy’s 16th-ranked team and both teams believe they should have been seeded much higher. This matchup will be decided based on Wichita State’s ability to deal with the size of Arizona, something the Shockers had no problem with against Vanderbilt.

 

Prediction: Wichita State 71, Arizona 68

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