The Wichita State Shockers are preparing for their Final Four matchup with the Louisville Cardinals in Atlanta this coming Saturday.
Unfortunately, they have their work cut out for them if they are going to become the first No. 9 seed in NCAA tournament history to make the championship game.
However, the Shockers have constantly proved doubters wrong, having beaten a good Pitt team, a No. 1 seed Gonzaga squad, a surprisingly resilient La Salle program and a title favorite in No. 2 seed Ohio State.
Let’s take a look at what Wichita State must do to live another day and punch a ticket to the national championship contest.
The main reason why the Shockers have become the tournament’s Cinderella isn’t because of some mind-blowing, unsustainable hot streak from beyond the arc—or anything on the offensive end at all.
The Shockers are amazing defensively and have cranked it up a notch during March Madness. They have guarded all areas of the court well, especially shots from three-point land. Opponents have made just 21-of-73 from deep against the them in the Big Dance.
They will have to remain light on their feet against a hyper-athletic Louisville squad that is favored to win by 11 points (as per Bovada.lv). Their best hope at pulling off the upset is to hold the Cardinals under one point per possession.
When able to do that, Wichita State has gone 23-1 during the 2012-13 campaign, including a great effort against the Buckeyes in the Elite Eight. OSU only scored 66 points on its 70 possessions.
Every player on this roster is capable of defending well, so they’ll need to work together as a team to overcome a foe more talented than any they have faced this season.
It’s going to be tough to bang in the paint with Louisville, but the Shockers must win that battle in order to advance.
Carl Hall was the team’s leading rebounder during the regular season, but he’s only hauled in 20 boards during the Shockers' four contests in the tournament. The senior will be required to do more, especially if 6’11” Gorgui Dieng is bodying him up.
Gonzaga was the only opponent able to edge Wichita State in both offensive and defensive rebounding, which is why it required an amazing shooting display (50 percent from the field and on three-pointers) to oust the Bulldogs.
It’s unlikely that these Shockers get as fortunate again against a better Louisville team and must not concede a large rebounding margin to them if they are to live to play another game.
Lean on Malcolm Armstead
This senior guard has become an unlikely hero for the Shockers after transferring from Oregon once the 2010-11 season ended.
He’s stepped up huge in the tournament on both ends of the floor, locking foes down on defense and coming back on the other end to get buckets for this squad.
Which team will win?
His 14-point, seven-rebound, three-assist, three-steal performance against Ohio State proved his versatility and proved that he was better against tough competition than his so-so outing against the ‘Zags indicated (2-of-9 shooting, 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals).
If Wichita State has any real hope of winning a national title, Armstead is certainly going to be instrumental to its chances. He’s going to need to step up, make all the big shots down the stretch and evade the stingy Cardinals, all the while doing his best to shut down star PG Peyton Siva.
It’s a tall task, but this young man has proven up to the challenge.