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2016 NCAA Tournament: Preview of Arizona's first opponent, Wichita State and Vanderbilt

Which team will Arizona have to play, and which team would be the tougher matchup?

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats were pegged as a 6-seed in the South Region of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, and will play their opening round game in Providence, Rhode Island on Thursday.

As of now, the Wildcats' opponent is unknown, though it will be either the Wichita State Shockers or Vanderbilt Commodores. The 11-seeds will participate in a play-in game on Tuesday, and the winner will then play Arizona two days later.

Here's how Vanderbilt and Wichita State stack up statistically, along with their rankings among all teams, which are in parentheses.

Wichita State (24-8, 16-2 Missouri Valley Conference)

Vanderbilt (19-13, 11-7 SEC) team rating



Offensive Efficiency

108.9 (81 of 351)

112.9 (32 of 351)

Defensive Efficiency

89.9 (1 of 351)

96.1 (34 of 351)

Adjusted tempo

67.0 (267 of 351)

68.6 (192 of 351)


32.9% (252 of 351)

38.8% (21 of 351)


49.8% (128 of 351)

50.5% (105 of 351)

Defensive rebound %

76.3% (5 of 351)

70.6% (156 of 351)

Offensive rebound %

31.8% (102 of 351)

27.4% (250 of 351)

Turnover %

14.8% (11 of 351)

16.8% (84 of 351)

Defensive style

Mostly man

Mostly man

It's insane that Wichita State is ranked as the No. 12 team by KenPom, meaning it is four spots above Arizona. It is a terrific defensive team (sporting the best defensive efficiency in the country), and a great defensive rebounding team, plus it takes care of the basketball. However, the Shockers' offense is below average compared to most tournament teams, and they really struggle to shoot the ball from the perimeter, plus they don't have much of an impact on the offensive glass.

Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is about equal on offense and defense, but doesn't necessarily stand out on either end. The Commodores, unlike the Shockers, shoot very well from the perimeter and defend the perimeter well too, holding opponents to a 29.3 3-point percentage, which is the third-best mark in the nation. While Wichita State is easily the better defensive team, it doesn't guard the perimeter quite as well, as teams shoot 32.7 percent from that range against it. Though, that's still a respectable mark.

Both teams play at a slow pace and, in good news for Arizona, mostly man defense.

Here are the offensive shot charts for both teams as well:

Again, you can see how Vanderbilt's perimeter game is definitely its strength. It shoots a ton of threes and understandably so. The Shockers' offense, on the flip side, isn't too impressive.

Players to watch

Alright, so that's how the two teams stack up against one another, but what type of personnel do they have?

The Shockers have two players that many college basketball fans are familiar with -- Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. Baker is the team's leading-scorer, averaging 14.7 points per game. Though the 6-foot-4 guard's 3-point percentage has dropped this season compared to previous years, he's still shooting nearly 36 percent from that range. And he's not just a shooter, he gets to line plenty, averaging four free throw attempts per game, and makes plays, dishing out 3.2 assists per game.

Baker has had multiple 20+ point games in the NCAA Tournament before, and had the senior left school last year, there was a very real chance that he would've been a first-round NBA Draft pick.

Now to VanVleet, the team's floor general. The 5-foot-11 guard averages 12.0 points per game and 5.7 assists per game. Distributing the basketball is definitely the senior's calling card. VanVleet has an unreal assist percentage -- 40.1 percent -- and boasts an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.3 to 1. Part of the reason the Shockers' defense has been as good as its been this year is because it doesn't give up many points off turnovers, and VanVleet has a major hand in that.

VanVleet isn't an explosive athlete by any means, so offensively, if he's not setting up his teammates, he's usually shooting the ball from the perimeter. And he does it well. He's shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. Of course, his lack of athleticism shows up in his finishing percentage at the rim -- he shoots just 43 percent there. At the same time, though, that doesn't necessarily mean he's not dangerous when he drives to the rim, because he is. More times than not, he'll find the open man if he can breakdown the defense.

In general, Wichita State is a small team. Among its five players that play the most minutes, the tallest player is Markis McDuffie -- a 6-foot-8 freshman -- while two others are 6-foot-6. So, should this be the team Arizona plays, the Wildcats will have a significant size advantage, though it's worth repeating that the Shockers, despite their lack of size, rebound the ball well.


Now onto Vanderbilt. The Commodores are led by Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones, who each average just over 14 points per game. Baldwin is the team's point guard, while Jones is a forward/center.

Baldwin averages around five assists per game, with an assist-to-turnover ratio just under two. And, like Van Vleet, Baldwin does most of his damage from the 3-point line, hitting 41.4 percent of his threes. He is a better finisher than VanVleet too -- 50 percent field goal percentage at the rim -- and gets to the free throw line nearly six times per game.

Jones shoots 59.5 percent from the field and not only makes 75 percent of his attempts at the rim, but he also has a solid mid-range game, though he doesn't extend out to the three-point line. He has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, allowing him to disrupt passing lanes and deter shots at the rim, but he's also pretty thin, contributing to relatively weak rebounding numbers (6.9 RPG).

Vanderbilt, being an outstanding 3-point shooting team, has plenty of knock-down shooters to worry about.

Matthew Fisher-Davis shoots 45.7 percent from behind the arc, while taking nearly six 3s per game, and Jeff Roberson shoots a similar percentage, though he only takes about two 3s per game. Fisher-Davis and Roberson start alongside Jones and Baldwin, while Riley LaChance shoots 36.2 percent from 3 off the bench.

The team's fifth starter is Luke Kornet, a 7-foot-1 shot-blocking extraordinaire. He averages three blocks per game, and has an interesting role offensively, as nearly half of his shots come from the 3-point line. While he hasn't shot well from out there this season -- 28.4 percent -- he shot 40 percent from that range last season, so perhaps he's a better shooter than his current percentages show. And since he's a big man that can step out and shoot from the perimeter, he instantly becomes a problem for Arizona, if it has to face Vanderbilt. Plus he and Jones give Vandy two 7-footers in the front court which is difficult for any team to handle.


Final thoughts

Both teams have notable strengths. For Wichita State, it's its defense, rebounding ability, ability to take care of the basketball, and a ton of NCAA Tournament experience. This will be the Shockers' fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in a row and their leaders, Baker and VanVleet, have played in a Final Four, Elite Eight, and two Sweet Sixteens.

Vanderbilt's strengths are its shot-blocking, size, defending the 3-point line, and shooting the 3.

As far as weaknesses go, Wichita State's offense, despite VanVleet running the show, is ranked just 81st in the country. It doesn't shoot the ball well from deep and it doesn't have a go-to low-post scorer. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is solid, but not much more than that on either end of the floor. It's also a below average rebounding team, especially on the offensive glass, and has little, if any, NCAA Tournament experience.

With all things considered, it's fair to say that Wichita State is the better team. Frankly it should be a much higher seed, and with its defense plus Baker and VanVleet, that's probably the team that Arizona doesn't want to have to face.

But obviously that's out of Arizona's control and Vanderbilt and Wichita State will duke it out on Tuesday for a chance to play the Wildcats. Tipoff is at 6:10 PM MST and it will be televised on TruTV.

You can follow this author on Twitter @RKelapireUA

*all stats via, and