(5) Wichita St vs. (12) Virginia Commonwealth: South Region
Wichita State 27-5, 16-2 MVC (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
VCU 28-6, 15-3 CAA (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 7:15 p.m. Thursday
Location: Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
Winner will face: (4) Indiana vs. (13) New Mexico State, Saturday
Wichita State No. 18 AP; No. 19 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
VCU No. 32 AP; No. 31 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Wichita State 16
Line: Wichita State -5½ (O/U 134)
Players to Watch
Wichita State: G Joe Ragland, 6-0 Sr. (13.4 ppg, 3.4 apg, 56.7% FG); C Garrett Stutz, 7-0 Sr. (13.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 55.6% FG); G Toure’ Murry, 6-5 Sr. (12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.3 apg). Ragland is one of the most improved players in the country from last year to this, improving his scoring average from 7.0 to 13.4. He increased his shooting percentage from 44.3 a year ago to 56.7 this year and his 3-point accuracy from 31.3 to 50 percent.
VCU: F Bradford Burgess, 6-6 Sr. (13.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.5 apg); F Juvonte Reddic, 6-9 So. (10.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 51.6% FG); G Darius Theus, 6-3 Jr. (8.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.9 spg). Theus got better as the season wound down and he came up big in the 59-56 win over Drexel in the CAA championship game with 16 points, five assists, five steals and four rebounds.
Why Each Team is Dangerous
Wichita State: Although this is Wichita’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006, the current Shockers have more experience than any team in the field with four seniors and a junior in the starting lineup. They are incredibly balanced with six players averaging at least 8.3 points and another at 5.7. The Shockers are strong up the middle with Stutz and Hall providing scoring, defense and toughness. They shot 48.5 percent from the field and 37.3 from the 3-point line. They also had a plus-5.7 rebounding margin and shoot 75.1 percent from the charity stripe.
VCU: The Rams are coming off a 5-win run to the Final 4 a year ago. Only Burgess played significant minutes on that team, but this year’s squad should be confident in itself, particularly after winning six straight and 17 of their last 18 through Monday’s title-game win. VCU plays the best full-court defense in the country, forcing 610 turnovers, including a nation-best 361 steals (10.6 per game). The Rams had a plus-6.5 turnover margin.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Wichita State: The Shockers’ season opened unimpressively in Puerto Rico and their tournament run ended with a thud as it went scoreless in the final 2:51 in a MVC semifinal loss to interior Illinois State. Wichita doesn’t get to the foul line often and sometimes gives team too many second-chance opportunities, and shot selection has been a concern at times. Stutz has had issues with foul troubles and the Shockers have struggled without him at times.
VCU: The young Rams just aren’t a very good offensive team, with the exception of Burgess. Much of their offense comes from their defense. If VCU isn’t effective in turning teams over, it really struggles in the half-court. They shot 41 percent from the floor this season, including just 33.7 from the 3-point line. VCU has also been pounded on the boards at times. It was out-rebounded by 2.0 boards per game this season.
The Bottom Line: Can’t put together any scenario where this game is close.
The Pick: Wichita State 66, Virginia Commonwealth 52
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-148-6 (Through Sunday, March 11)