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March 26, 2015

Take Wichita State at -2 spread against Notre Dame risking 3% of bankroll.

The NCAA tournament is chock full of little sub plots and underdog stories which makes it one of the most exciting tournaments in all of sports. One of the most thrilling sub-plots which the media will likely cover more about in the coming days is the potential for a rematch between the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats and Wichita State Shockers. Last season these two met in the Round of 32 in a thriller. In that matchup it was Gregg Marshall's side that had come into the tournament undefeated looking to complete the perfect season! Kentucky was the team that dashed those dreams. If the Shockers can manage to get past the Irish in this contest and Kentucky disposes West Virginia as they are likely to do, it will set up the rematch that the entire college world has been waiting for! This season, the tables have turned and it's John Calipari's Wildcats that are chasing perfection and staring down an undefeated season and the Shockers would be the ones who would have the opportunity to play spoiler. That possibility in itself should be motivation enough for the Shockers to come out fired up and ensure they progress.

There is also a good reason why the #7 seed is the favorite over a #3 seed in this contest! Wichita State is by no means a true 7 seed. They were no doubt underrated by the selection committee while Notre Dame may have been a bit overrated. In terms of experience at this high-pressure level of the tournament, the edge certainly lies with the Shockers. They are by far the more experience side and have regularly felt the pressure that the round of Sweet 16 can bring. The difference in this Shockers team and that of previous years is that they don’t have nearly as much pressure on them. Last year, they had come into tourney undefeated and were receiving massive media exposure for kids that weren't used to it. Now they've not only learned to deal with that much better and are mostly seniors/juniors and return 4 starters but the pressure has also decreased since the hype is less. Meanwhile the Irish are making their first Sweet 16 appearance since the 2003 season! They were impressive in the ACC tournament but struggled to get to this stage, failing to put away what we would consider much weaker opponents in Northeastern and Butler. 

The Notre Dame defense is also statistically the worst unit that is currently left in the tournament! We have seen the Shockers be able to go on runs and put points on the board in a hurry. The Kansas Jayhawks have had success on the defensive end this season and yet the Shockers carved them open and made it look easy. Their biggest strength perhaps however has been their under-rated defense. While everyone is talking about how efficient the Notre Dame offense has been, that is all that they bring to the table. Wichita State is the more complete side and also has a deeper bench. They have an offense that can run up and down the court when needed but at the end of the day, they own the far more impressive defense. An interesting fact is that Wichita State has allowed the 2nd-lowest effective FG% in the nation since the start of February! 

Mike Brey has done a great job and deserves credit but this program which has always been in the shadow of their football team is still very much a work in progress and one that lost 17 games last year! They've made improvements and their offense is dangerous but they still have a work to do in other areas and in particular on the defensive end where they aren't even in the top 100 nation-wide! Defense will be the Irish's downfall tonight as Shockers PG Fred Van Vleet is imposing his will on games and at times has looked like having the same impact that guys like Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier had for UConn in their title winning seasons! Between him and the all-around good play of Baker, Cotton and others, they make it tough for teams with even great defensive pressure and organization. This should be an entertaining battle and could be close at times but we believe the Shockers will be punching their tickets to the next round to face a likely rematch with Kentucky. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Shockers are 12-2 ATS as a neutral court favorite of 3 or less points!
  • Notre Dame is just 8-19 ATS when the total is 130 to 139.5 points over the last 3 seasons.
  • On the other hand, Shockers are 19-5 ATS when the total is 130 to 139.5 points over the last 2 seasons!

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