#11 Wichita State (24-8) vs #11 Vanderbilt (19-13)
When: Tuesday, March 15th 2016
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, OH
Time: 9:10 ET | TV: truTV
The Wichita State Shockers and Vanderbilt Commodores square off in a First Four game from Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday with the winner getting 6th-seeded Arizona on Thursday in Providence, Rhode Island. The Commodores finished fourth in the tough SEC this season, but lost their final two games including a heart-breaker against Tennessee in the conference tournament. Vandy got an at-large bid despite their mediocre 19-13 mark. The Commodores had impressive wins on their resume over Kentucky and Texas A&M and a pair of wins over Florida. 7’0″ center Damian Jones has scored in double figures nine straight games and pulls down 6.9 rebounds per game. Luke Kornet leads the team with 7.2 rebounds a game and is among the national leaders with three blocks per contest. Wade Baldwin IV tops the team in scoring (14.3) despite shooting just 15-of-46 from the floor in the last four games and backcourt partner Matthew Fisher-Davis (9.9) has hit 45.7% of his 3-point attempts this season. This will be Vanderbilt’s 14th trip to the NCAA Tournament and first since 2012.
The Shockers will be in the Big Dance for the 13th time in school-history and for the fifth straight year. The injury-plagued team started the season at 5-5, but got healthy and won 19 of their last 21 games and received an at-large bid despite losing in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament to Northern Iowa. Wichita State is led by their senior guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, a two-time MVC Player of the Year. Baker is second all time in team history with 237 made three-pointers, but was held to 0-of-5 from behind the arc against Northern Iowa. Baker averages 14.2 points, while VanVleet is the only other player in double figures (12.0), but has shot only 3-of-15 from the field the last two games. Forward Anton Grady, a transfer from Cleveland State, averaged 13.3 points and 5.5 rebounds over his last four games while shooting 20-of-30 from the field.
I’m worried about the size disadvantage for Wichita State under the boards, but this is a very experienced team that has been there before. Baker and VanVleet will carry this team tonight and I think they can cover the number as well.
Pick: Wichita State -3.5