No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 10 Wichita State Preview
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Indianapolis, IN
When: Sunday, March 19, 2017, 2:40 PM ET
TV Broadcast: CBS
Writer’s Prediction: Wichita State Shockers (+4.5)
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Betting on the Kentucky Wildcats (-4.5)
Kentucky had a tougher time than expected against 20-point underdog Northern Kentucky. The Wildcats shot just 44 percent from the floor against the Norse, including 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. Leading scorer Malik Monk was ice-cold, going just 3-of-11 for 12 points in his first tournament game.
Luckily, fellow freshmen De’Aaron Fox (19 points) and Bam Adebayo (15 points, 18 rebounds), as well as sophomore Isaiah Briscoe (17 points, 8 rebounds) picked up the slack to get the 79-70 win.
The Wildcats’ impressive win streak is now up to 12 games, but after their failed first-round cover, they are now just 5-6-1 ATS in those 12 games.
Wichita State is a very good defense, but hardly any defense in the country can contain Monk when he gets it going. Leading the SEC in scoring as a freshman is no joke, and Monk (20 points per game) made it look easy. He and Fox are good enough to carry the Wildcats offense past a relatively young and inexperienced Shockers backcourt.
Kentucky coach John Calipari should have a good idea of what to expect against Wichita State. His Wildcats team took down a then-undefeated Shockers team at this stage back in 2014.
Betting on the Wichita State Shockers (+4.5)
Wichita State passed its tough first-round test against No. 7 Dayton, 64-58, to extend its current winning streak to 16 games. However, the Shockers just missed covering the 6.5-point spread as favorites. They’re now 11-5 during that 16-game win streak.
The Shockers’ offense was not good against Dayton, as they shot just 40 percent from the floor and 30 percent from downtown. But their own defense suffocated the Flyers’ attack, and held them to an awful 31 percent shooting. They also completely dominated the glass, 48-29.
Unlike other mid-majors, the Shockers have the size to compete with Kentucky on the boards. They average 41 rebounds per game, No. 4 in the country. They have at least four bodies to throw at Adebayo, which will be crucial to stopping the Wildcats.
The Shockers also get to the line very well. They shot 27 free-throws against Dayton, and averaged 24 attempts in the regular season (29th in the country). Look for them to attack Adebayo early and often, and try to get the Kentucky big man in foul trouble.
And as they showed against Dayton, the Shockers’ defense is top notch. They allowed opponents to shoot just 37 percent from the field (4th in the nation), including 31 percent from beyond the arc. Expect them to come out with a gameplan to silence Monk, and if he just makes shots, they have the ability to take away Kentucky’s other offensive options.
Wichita State (+4.5) gets its revenge on Kentucky as the Shockers move on to the Sweet 16.
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