Shockers to lock down Commodores?

Shockers to lock down Commodores?

Wichita State’s season wasn’t supported to unfold this way. Despite the irrepressible senior tandem of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, the No. 10 selection in the AP’s initial 2015-16 poll often resembled a shell of the team that had captivated Midwest hoops fans in recent years.

Tonight presents a prime opportunity to make things right again. The Shockers (24-8), eager to shake off their disconcerting loss to Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, face Vanderbilt at 9:10 p.m. ET in the First Four.

Oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI cite the experience factor here, listing WSU as a 3.5-point favorite in Dayton. The over/under rests at 136 points for two schools prone to scoring droughts.

Poor offensive stretches undoubtedly marked Wichita State’s 5-5 start to the year, as did key injuries to VanVleet (hamstring) and Landry Shamet (stress fracture). Gregg Marshall’s group adjusted well enough to take 19 of its final 22 contests.

Even so, the Shockers’ hopes typically hinged on suffocating the opposition. They lead the nation in scoring defense at 59.3 points per game. Baker and VanVleet are especially renowned in this area, forcing countless steals and creating delectable chances in transition.

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Vanderbilt (19-13) counters with its towering front line in an attempt to decelerate the pace. Seven-footers Josh Henderson and Luke Kornet need to truly assert themselves in the halfcourt, though, or else WSU’s decided perimeter advantage will become even more profound.

Bottom line: Wichita State returns essentially the same cast that toppled Indiana and Kansas en route to last season’s Sweet 16. The Commodores, making their first Big Dance appearance since 2012, must walk before they can run.

TUESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: WICHITA STATE -3.5

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