Can Shockers stay strong vs. Canes?

Can Shockers stay strong vs. Canes?

Cagey veterans will assume Providence’s center stage this afternoon, with the Shockers and Hurricanes set to battle in one of the NCAA tourney’s most intriguing pairings yet.

Wichita State’s commanding victory over Arizona two days ago has restored their luster in the eyes of oddsmakers. According to online sports book Bovada.lv, Gregg Marshall’s senior-fronted squad is a 2-point favorite in the 12:10 p.m. ET showdown at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

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ACC powerhouse Miami (26-7), of course, counters with abundant experience of its own. Fifth-year senior Angel Rodriguez averages 12.1 points and boasts 145 assists as the conductor of head coach Jim Larranaga’s offense. Sheldon McClellan rounds out the starting backcourt by doing a little bit of everything, which proved wholly necessary in Thursday’s unexpectedly tight win over Buffalo.

Conversely, WSU annihilated the Wildcats. The Shockers (26-8) led their higher-seeded counterparts by as many as 24 in the second half and leaned on the unflappable Fred VanVleet-Ron Baker duo to show the way to the round of 32.

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With those two seniors performing as well as ever, Wichita State’s roll could continue through next weekend. At some juncture, however, fatigue must kick in. WSU expended a lot of energy in besting Vanderbilt in the First Four, too, so Miami’s slashers will look to exploit tired legs at every turn.

The Shockers’ resolve demands respect, and that unwavering commitment to suffocating defense gives them a chance anywhere. Which team, though, gets the final shot? That’s the sort of thrilling affair for which we're in store.

SATURDAY NCAA FREE PICK: MIAMI/WICHITA STATE OVER 132 POINTS

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