(5) Wichita State vs. (12) VCU Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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(5) Wichita State Shockers
Winners of the 2011 NIT, the Shockers are anxious to prove themselves on the biggest stage. They were upset in their conference tournament semifinals by Illinois State in a game that had some questionable calls late. Prior to that, they won nine-straight games and 18 of their last 19. They’re a well-balanced team with six guys who average eight or more points, led by Garrett Stutz’s 13. Stutz, a senior seven-footer who has really come into his own this year, also leads the team with eight rebounds. His play inside the paint will be critical for the Shockers’ hopes of advancing. When teams sag in on him, fellow senior Joe Ragland will make them pay from deep. He made 57 threes on the year at a 50 percent clip. The Shockers are a high-scoring team in general, scoring 78 points on average. They take quality shots, play well with each other and take good care of the ball. Twenty of their wins were against teams outside of the RPI Top 100, but they did go 2-2 against teams in the Top 25.
(12) Virginia Commonwealth Rams
There was the possibility that the Rams, who surprised everyone in the country last year by advancing all the way to the Final Four, could have ended up in the NIT. They didn’t leave their fate in the hands of the committee though, winning the Colonial conference tournament. On paper it may not look like they have what it takes to go on another Cinderella-esque run like last year, but the same could be said last March and we all saw what they managed to pull off. This year’s Rams team looks far different. Only one starter, Bradford Burgess, is back. He’s endured a senior slump and regressed across the board, but is still an explosive scorer. As a team, the Rams are tenacious defensively, forcing a nation’s best 10 steals a game. Juvonte Reddic, Darius Theus and Troy Daniels are three players who need to have a big tournament for them to advance. The Rams did not face any RPI Top 25 teams. They went 1-1 against teams ranked 26-50.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Wichita State. This is the Shockers’ year to make a run, they’ll send the Rams home much earlier than they were last year.
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