Final Four Preview: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 9 Wichita State
This is a tough situation for anybody to get put in.
The Shockers, the nation’s darling and the Cinderella of the Final Four, not only get matched up with the best team left in the tournament, they have to play that game when Louisville is A) playing their best basketball of the season and B) taking advantage of the added motivation that comes with playing for Kevin Ware.
Beating Louisville is never easy, and that much is particularly true this week.
But if there is anything to say about the Shockers, it’s that they are a very good basketball team. Don’t let the recruiting rankings fool you. It wasn’t a fluke that they made it this far.
Key Player: Malcolm Armstead
How is he going to handle the Louisville pressure? We wrote about it yesterday. If Wichita State is going to have any chance to win this game, they need to be able to protect the basketball. They need to be able to get the ball over half court and into their offensive sets. Armstead is going to be the guy that they rely on to do that. How he deals with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith swarming him will be what determines who will win this game.
Key Matchup: Cleanthony Early vs. Chane Behanan
This is the matchup where Wichita State might actually have an advantage. What’s been the most impressive thing about Early this season is that he’s proven to be a capable perimeter scorer that can go for 30 points if he gets into a rhythm. With all due respect to Behanan, he’s not a guy that is going to want to chase anyone around on the perimeter, and Early is big enough that he can bang with the stronger Behanan on the block.
Key Stat: 33.2% Defensive Rebounding
The Cardinals allow opponents to get offensive rebounds on a third of their missed shots. Wichita State is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to cleaning up their misses. Get to the offensive glass, and they’ll have a chance.
Who Wins?: I love Wichita State and everything that they stand for. Nothing makes me happier than seeing underdogs do underdog things. But this Louisville team? They don’t play. Cards by 15.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.