WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (30-4)
vs. DAYTON FLYERS (24-7)
First Round – Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, IN
Tip-off: Friday, 6:30 pm ET
Line: Wichita State -5.5, Total: 145.5
The Dayton Flyers square off with the Wichita State Shockers on Friday in a South Region Round of 64 tilt.
When the brackets were announced on Sunday, more than a few eyebrows were raised when #7 seed Dayton’s opponent in the South Region was revealed to be Wichita State. Most experts felt that the Shockers deserved a better seed than a #10. Wichita State is hot as an iron, winners of 15 straight, with a 30-4 overall record. They won the Missouri Valley regular season and tournament titles. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year after losing program stalwarts Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker. Instead, Gregg Marshall’s squad tore through the MVC at 17-1 and the beat went on for a program that has become a major player on the college hoops landscape. The Shockers are 8-1-1 ATS in their past 10 games. In the MVC title tilt, they trounced Illinois State by 20 as 7-point favorites. Despite the disappointment of getting bounced by Davidson 73-67 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the Flyers boast a solid 24-7 record and added a shiny, new A-10 regular season title to their trophy case. Dayton enters Friday’s contest having dropped two in a row and failing to cover in either game. Prior to that, the Flyers had reeled off nine wins in a row (7-2 ATS). In neutral sites, the Shockers are 3-4, while the Flyers are 2-3.
Under its dynamic, young coach, Archie Miller, the Flyers are making their school-record fourth straight NCAA Tourney appearance, highlighted by an Elite Eight run in 2014. The Flyers are led by a trio of seniors: 6’5” G Charles Cooke (16.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG and 2.9 APG), 6’6” F Kendall Pollard (14.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG 1.4 APG and 1.5 SPG) and 6’2” G Scoochie Smith (13.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.5 SPG). Cooke has scored in double digits in every game but two in which he’s played. Pollard is a 53.3% FG shooter, but is just a 25% career three-point shooter (12-for-48). Smith is the Flyers’ emotional leader, and he is also as clutch as they come. He’s the type of guy that will need to go off if the team is going to advance. 6’8’’ sophomore F Xeyrius Williams (8.4 PPG) has been coming on late in the season, scoring in double figures in six of his last nine games. In the Flyers’ last two games, he was a combined 8-for-14 from deep (57%). Senior G Kyle Davis (8.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 SPG) is the “glue guy” for the Flyers. As a team, the Flyers share the ball, assisting on 61% of their made field goals. They wound up tied with Rhode Island for the A-10 in fewest turnovers (370). The Flyers led the A-10 at 38.7% from behind the arc. They ranked third in the A-10 in defending the three, with opponents shooting 32.5%.
Wichita State is young but they don’t play like it. This is a deep, talented team with a lot of answers for whatever the opposition throws at them. The Shockers averaged 82.1 PPG and gave up only 62.4 PPG this season. Their scoring margin of +19.6 PPG was good for second in the nation to Gonzaga. Marshall typically gives 10 guys quality minutes in a balanced attack, led by 6’8” sophomore forward Markis McDuffie (11.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.2 SPG). McDuffie is a capable three-point shooter at 38.1% but he does not shoot threes at a high volume. And if McDuffie’s numbers don’t jump off the page at you, that speaks to the Shockers’ balance. The Shockers are deadly from behind the arc, shooting threes at a 40.8% clip, good for fourth in the nation. A pair of snipers leads the way in the backcourt: 6’4” freshman Landry Shamet (11.1 PPG, 3.3 APG) and 6’1” junior Conner Frankamp (9.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG). Shamet shot 45.4% from 3-point range and Frankamp, a Kansas transfer, drained 44.6% of his threes. In the regular season finale against Missouri State, Frankamp had 18 points on the strength of six treys. Here’s an understatement: Dayton will have to guard the three-point line. Darral Willis Jr. is solid inside the paint for the Shockers. The 6’9” junior averaged 10.2 PPG and 5.5 RPG. Though it’s not his forte, Willis does have 10 blocked shots over the last five contests. The Shockers are only adequate at protecting the rim (122nd in the nation at 3.7 BPG). Their overall defense is stout. The Shockers are fifth in the nation in FG defense, allowing 37.8% shooting to the opposition. They led the MVC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.49 and assists per game at 16.6. Though no one on the team has gaudy rebounding numbers, the Shockers do hit the glass. They are fifth in the nation in rebounding margin at 8.9 RPG, which should be a big advantage over a Dayton team with a margin on the boards of just +0.2 (192nd in the nation).