In this matchup, we have the only Number 1 seed remaining in the tournament vs. the only “Cinderella” team left. Louisville has defeated North Carolina A&T, Colorado St, Oregon, and Duke to advance to this Final 4 and none of the games have been close. The 77-69 Oregon win was the closest and it wasn’t as close as the score appears. Wichita State opened the dance with a blowout win over Pitt and then proceeded to beat number 1 seeded Gonzaga in a game that they never trailed in the second half. They easily beat fellow underdog La Salle in the Sweet 16 and advanced to the Final Four by holding off Number 2 seed Ohio State for a 70-66 victory. Louisville entered the tournament as the number one overall seed and has certainly played like one thus far. Wichita State was picked by many to beat Gonzaga, however very few other than the most loyal of fans had them beating Ohio State.
PG’s- Louisville Peyton Siva vs Wichita State’s Malcolm Armstead
Armstead is the leading assist man on the team; however he is also an aggressive offensive player who, like the rest of his backcourt mates, is a threat from beyond the arc. Siva is a seasoned veteran who has played in many big games. He is the team’s floor leader who is instrumental in setting up his teammates and can create his own shot
Edge – Louisville
Wings- Louisville’s Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear vs. Wichita St’s Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton
Baker and Cotton are a freshman and a sophomore respectively; however they certainly do not play as such. They are the key cogs behind the 3 point attack that has led this surprising run. They will not be intimidated by the stage. Smith has been the most outstanding player in the tournament so far and is a dynamic all around talent. He can score off drives and from the outside while playing well with or without the ball. Blackshear is the team’s top perimeter defender and is capable of using his size to create easy baskets down low.
Forward- Louisville Chane Behanan vs. Wichita St’s Cleanthony Early
Behanan is a physical player who shows his versatility in many of Louisville’s defensive sets. Early is Wichita St’s best player and he is capable of scoring in bunches. He can play on the post or step out and hit a jump shot. You can expect Louisville to focus on him defensively.
Edge- Wichita State
Louisville- Gorqui Dieng vs. Wichita St’s Carl Hall
Dieng is Louisville’s most improved player. He is a shot blocker and an all-around presence in the paint. He had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the Elite 8 contest and it is crucial that he avoid foul trouble. Hall is a senior leader who will work extremely hard on every possession. He averaged 12 points a game during the season and is a capable scorer.
It is likely that Cotton will be given the difficult task of attempting to guard Smith. This will be one of the keys to the game as Smith has dominated the tournament thus far. If Cotton can slow him down it will greatly increase his team’s chances. Louisville has yet to be tested and this is likely to result in a little rust. Defending the 3 point line is of particular importance because so much of Wichita States offense comes from deep. If Louisville allows them to shoot open attempts then they will find themselves in an early hole.
In the end it should come down to Wichita States ability to run their offense efficiently enough to score early on. They have shown to be a gritty team and if they can make their outside shots they can keep this close. Louisville has yet to be tested and that can be viewed as either a positive or a negative. Wichita State may not have enough firepower to win the game, but they are a strong play against the spread.
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