Shockers, Wildcats set for a tight one

Shockers, Wildcats set for a tight one

Wichita State ambushed Vanderbilt in the waning stages of Tuesday’s First Four action, but can the momentum carry over to Providence?

The Dunkin’ Donuts Center represents this evening’s second-round battle site for the Shockers and Wildcats. Arizona, for its part, hasn’t played since falling to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament.

Even so, online sports book Bovada.lv prefers Sean Miller’s squad as a 1-point favorite. The over/under total rests at 137.

Neither school quite met lofty preseason expectations. Tucson’s celebrated senior trio of Ryan Anderson, Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski failed to bring home a third straight conference championship, finishing third behind the Ducks and Utah. Arizona’s 4-3 record since Feb. 25 also makes it difficult to gauge how the group will respond after that 2,600-mile journey to Rhode Island.

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Having weathered their own rough patch back in November, the Shockers now resemble the esteemed Sweet 16 ensemble of 2014-15. Two nights ago, WSU overcame an awful shooting performance to beat the Commodores by 20. The biggest reason: Gregg Marshall’s incomparable defense, which limits opponents to just 59 points per game.

The Wildcats employ an up-tempo style that regularly leads to outings in the low 80s. In addition, York and Tarczewski have combined to compete in 20 NCAA tourney contests. Such experience simply cannot be replicated – unless Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker (10 appearances each) are on the case.

For all of Arizona’s great traits, though, we haven’t seen the Grade A material in a while. Bottom line: Iowa was the last team to victimize the Shockers for 70-plus in regulation.

That “outburst” happened before Christmas. Until Wichita State shows otherwise, bet on the peerless D.

THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: WICHITA STATE +1

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