March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (1) Wichita State vs. (16) Cal Poly

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Wichita State Shockers 34-0, 18-0

One of the most polarizing teams in the field, the Shockers come in with high expectations and plenty of doubters despite the fact that they’re the lone undefeated team in the nation. They’re representing the Missouri Valley Conference and dancing for the 11th time in program history. Last year’s run was the greatest of them all, though, as they advanced all the way to the Final Four. Anything short of a return to that point will be looked at as a disappointment. Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall is comfortable going nine deep in his rotation, a valuable asset for a team looking to make a deep run. Cleanthony Early is the team’s star, leading them in points (15.8) and rebounds (5.9), but he has a quality supporting pieces in Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton most notably. The Shockers are really tough defensively, giving up just 59 points a night. However, the toughest competition they’ve faced this season is Brigham Young, Saint Louis and Tennessee. Until they knock off a truly viable contender, they’re going to be questioned. They won by an average margin of victory of 15.9 points and have little in terms of noticeable weaknesses. Obviously, nothing has been exposed to a great extent yet, but their toughest challenges are ahead.

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Cal Poly Mustangs 13-19, 6-10

After closing out the regular season by losing 10 of their last 13 games, the Mustangs did not look anything like a team capable of winning three contests in three days in order to earn their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Yet, here they are dancing by virtue of destroying Cal-State Bakersfield, 69-38, five days after they defeated them by 16 on senior day, and edging UC-Irving, the regular season champs, and Cal-State Northridge by a combined five points in the Big West conference tournament. The Mustangs went 0-4 against the RPI top 50, losing by an average of 16.5 points to Arizona, Oregon, Pittsburgh and Stanford. All of their wins came against teams outside of the RPI top 100 and their strength of schedule was ranked 119th. Their defense, which only allows 64 points a game, is ranked in the top 50th nationally, but they only scored 63. Senior forward Chris Eversley is the player to watch for them as he leads them in points (13.4), rebounds (7.2) and steals (1.4). Obviously, the Mustangs’ crowning achievement this season is just getting to this point, but with only three seniors on the roster this experience should be quite the motivator for their returners moving forward.