The Arizona Wildcats find out on Tuesday night who they will open the NCAA Tournament with, when the Wichita State Shockers and the Vanderbilt Commodores meet in the First Four in Dayton.
We've already broken down the matchup, but let's take all objectivity out of it and debate who we would rather see against the Wildcats on Thursday:
Who would you rather see Arizona face on Thursday, Wichita State or Vanderbilt and why?
James Schlittenhart: Since it seems pretty obvious that the answer should be Vanderbilt, maybe it's worth playing the devil's advocate for a moment. What happens to Arizona's confidence if they beat the better team? If they come out of the first round having taken down an experienced, deep, senior-led Shockers squad? It's no secret that lots of folks will pick Wichita State as a trendy upset should they face the Wildcats. To beat a team that is considered one of the top 15 in the nation by KenPom ratings could potentially mean a great deal. That would bode well for Arizona's psyche after the massive letdown against Oregon.
Really though, let's be frank: this is Arizona basketball. They shouldn't be afraid to face either one of these teams. Rebuilding year or not, the impending 11-seed should be the one that is worried about their matchup, not the other way around. Arizona is capable of beating either one of these teams. Would I rather see the perceived easier matchup in Vanderbilt? Maybe. That said, a win against Wichita State is a much bigger boon this early in the tournament, and it would certainly make other South teams pay the Wildcats a bit more heed.
Ryan Kelapire: Definitely Vanderbilt. I broke down the two teams, and it's clear that Wichita State is the better team. I mean, it is a top 15 team according to KenPom, not to mention that it has the best defensive rating in the country, plus loads of NCAA Tournament experience. Though I do have to say that Vanderbilt's 3-point shooting is not something I'd be looking forward to facing.
Alec Sills-Trausch: I've gone back and forth on this. I first thought Wichita State because, while their defense is pretty damn good, they won't be able to shoot us out of the game like Oregon did. But then I got to thinking about how much experience Baker and VanVleet have and I'd probably not want to face that. So I've swung to being okay facing Vanderbilt who is a good team, but not overwhelming or anything. Vandy, though, is the No. 3 team when it comes to three-point defense, meaning Zeus, Dusan, and Comanche will need to bring their A-game in case our guards struggle from deep.
Brandon Hill: This is such a tough draw for Arizona. Shipped out to the East Coast, as a 6-seed, and getting the winner of two 11-seeds which ESPN analytics rate as by far the best 11-seeds since those analytics began in 2007. I too initially thought Vandy would certainly be the preferred opponent, and I still may slightly lean that way because, as mentioned, Wichita State has the number one adjusted defensive efficiency rating per KenPom and this Arizona team can't win in low scoring, grind out games like years past, but Vandy is the more balanced team (32nd in AdjO, 34th in AdjD compared to the Shockers' 81st rated AdjO). I think regardless of opponent, Arizona will feel fortunate to get a first round win. This year's Cats team, to me, is truly a potential Final Four team that also potentially faces a first round exit, an unusual combination.
David Potts: Definitely Vanderbilt. Ryan hit the nail on the head - this Wichita State team is much better than an 11-seed, and I wouldn't be shocked if Arizona were an underdog against WSU. I'll be rooting for Vanderbilt.
James Hartman: I would rather see Wichita State because I would not trust Arizona's inconsistent defense against Vanderbilt's ability to score. If Arizona's defense doesn't show up and they struggle against Vanderbilt's size on offense, the game could turn ugly. I think if Arizona struggles defensively, and leaves guys wide open -- which they have a nasty habit of doing -- Wichita State would still have a hard time scoring because they don't shoot the ball that particularly well. Vanderbilt also has three future NBA players, whereas Wichita State has experience, yes, but they don't have as much elite talent. Against Wichita State, Arizona will have a brutal fight for the boards, but as long as Ryan Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Dusan Ristic hold their own, I like their chances better than against Vanderbilt's size and unpredictability.
Gabe Encinas: I would rather play Vanderbilt. I'm sure everyone above me already talked about how good Wichita State is, their defense and experience. It's March which means that college basketball is officially here and anything can happen.
Jason Bartel: I would rather see Vanderbilt because even though some of the stats show that Vanderbilt is a more balanced team, I've seen what Wichita State can do in the tourney the last few years, and I don't think Arizona wants any part of that.