Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet combined for 28 points as the Wichita State Shockers rolled past the Vanderbilt Commodores, 70-50, in an 11-seed play-in game. The Shockers are now in the field of 64 and will have the privilege of playing the sixth-seeded Arizona Wildcats on Thursday in Providence, Rhode Island at 6:20 PM MST.
For that reason, it's time to get to know the Shockers who, just last year, made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and in 2013 were in the Final Four.
F - Shaquille Morris, 6'7", So. -- 15.5 MIN, 6.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 BLK, 57.6 FG%
F - Zach Brown, 6'6", So. -- 19.4 MIN, 7.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 46.0 FG%, 30.0 3P%
G - Fred VanVleet, 6'0", Sr. -- 28.5 MIN, 12.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.7 TO, 1.6 STL, 39.2 FG%, 41.2 3P%
G - Ron Baker, 6'4", Sr. -- 31.4 MIN, 14.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.5 STL, 43.1 FG%, 35.8 3P%
G. Evan Wessel, 6'4", Sr. -- 22.0 MIN, 3.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 32.6 FG%, 27.5 3PT%
F - Anton Grady, 6'8", Sr. -- 17.3 MIN, 8.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 52.8 FG%, .125 3PT %
F - Markis McDuffie, 6'8", Fr. - 18.1 MIN, 7.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 43.1 FG%, 30.9 3PT %
G - Conner Frankamp, 6'1", So. -- 17.6 MIN, 6.1 PPG, 38.5 FG%, 34.1 3PT%
When looking at Wichita State's rotation, the first thing you'll notice is the team's lack of size. The tallest rotation player is Markis McDuffie, yet he only weighs 185 pounds. The Shockers will certainly be at a size disadvantage when having to deal with Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski. Another thing you'll notice about WSU is that it is a very limited 3-point shooting team. That does not apply to VanVleet and Baker, who are terrific shooters, but the rest of the team is not particularly dangerous and, as a team, the Shockers shoot 33.3 percent from behind the arc, which is a below average figure.
As noted above, the Shockers are not a great 3-point shooting team and, frankly, they're not anything special on offense in general. The Shockers have an offensive efficiency of 108.9* this season, which is No. 81 among all Division 1 schools. That's not bad, but it's pretty low compared to most tournament teams.
Here is Wichita State's shot chart this season (via ShotAnalytics.com):
Not only are the Shockers not a standout shooting team, but they also have trouble scoring in the paint. This is true for a few reasons. First, they lack a dominant post player, and two, their two best scorers don't finish well at the rim. Ron Baker is shooting 57 percent at the rim, which is about average, while VanVleet shoots just 44 percent from in there. Plus, the Shockers' offensive rebounding percentage is just 31.6 percent, so they're not apt to many second-chance points either.
However, what Wichita State does excel at is taking care of the basketball. The Shockers have the eighth lowest turnover percentage in the country, and they can thank Fred VanVleet for that. VanVleet averages more than three assists per turnover. The Shockers had just seven turnovers against Vanderbilt, and you shouldn't expect Arizona to be able to get out in transition as much as it'd like because of the Shockers' cautiousness with the ball. Plus, it allows Wichita State to control the pace, and the Shockers like to play at one of the slowest paces in the country.
But, despite how the Shockers have fared offensively this year, there's no doubt that Baker and VanVleet are dangerous. Baker can score from anywhere on the floor, is prone to getting to the free throw line, and is a good and willing passer, giving the Shockers two playmakers on the perimeter. Not to mention that Baker has had a few 20+ point scoring games in the NCAA Tournament before. VanVleet, on the other hand, shoots well from the perimeter, and though he doesn't finish well at the rim, he's still a nightmare for defenses to handle when he does get into the paint because of his ability to find the open man.
All in all, Wichita State is very pedestrian on the offensive end, but at worst, it won't give possessions away with careless turnovers and has two players, Baker and VanVleet, that are tough for any defense to handle.
In their win against Vanderbilt, the Shockers held the Commodores to a 30.3 field goal percentage, and defensive performances like that are what Wichita State has done all season. Its defense has been its calling card. Wichita State has the best defensive efficiency in the country (88.6), and is in the top-10 in many defensive metrics, namely effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, and 2-point field goal percentage. And even though it's a small team, it rebounds the ball almost as good as anyone, ranking fifth in the country in defensive rebounding percentage.
Because Wichita State's personnel is so similar in size, it's able to switch on ball-screens more than most teams. And it's also known for its effort on that end, especially Evan Wessel. Wessel isn't the most skilled player, but he does all of the little things. He takes charges, dives for loose balls, and is just an all-around pest on the defensive end.
Now, one could make the argument that Wichita State's defensive statistics are as good as they are because of the conference it plays in -- the Missouri Valley Conference -- but the Shockers held the Kansas Jayhawks and Indiana Hoosiers to a sub-40 percent field goal percentage in the NCAA Tournament last season and shut down Vanderbilt on Tuesday.
Simply put, this is not a defense to take lightly. The Shockers are known for their intensity on that end, and they've proven they can defend some of the best teams in the country on the biggest of stages.
How many 11-seeds feature four starters that have played in a Final Four, an Elite Eight, and two Sweet Sixteens? Probably not many, but Wichita State is one of them. Baker, VanVleet, Wessel, and Shaquille Morris all have a significant amount of NCAA Tournament experience and that shouldn't be overlooked. In games that are often decided by a only a few possessions and take place on a neutral court, experience is extremely important.
Meanwhile, Arizona has very little NCAA Tournament experience. Three of its starters -- Ryan Anderson, Kadeem Allen, and Allonzo Trier -- have never appeared in an NCAA Tournament game, and of the team's bench players, only Dusan Ristic has played in an NCAA Tournament game.
It's rare that an 11-seeded team has far more NCAA Tournament experience than the 6-seed it's matched up with, but here we are.