While Wichita State are just happy to be here and are hoping to keep their blend of physical defense and composure on offense, Louisiville were built to go to the Final Four and win it, with an intense team that doesn’t stop for a second on both ends of the floor, all through the NCAA tournament.
Full-Court-Press is the name of the game for Rick Pitino’s players, something that wowed and overwhelmed even a team as strong as Duke. The athleticism and tempo that Peyton Siva and Russ Smith dictate from the backcourt is simply relentless, probably something the Shockers haven’t seen all season, although they’ve done more than well in handling everything “new” thrown at them during the NCAA tournament.
But the key for Wichita State won’t be in the opening minutes, absorbing the shock of actually playing in Atlanta against the number one school in the nation. The key will be the second half, when everyone seems to be worn down against the Cardinals, who did the same thing to the Blue Devils in the second half of their Elite Eight game, and in general are winning the second half of their games by an average of 12.1 points during their conference and NCAA tournament winning streak.
They’ve been that dominant through the first four games of the tournament – They won their first four NCAA tournament games by an average of almost 22 points. They limited opponents to 59 points and 42% shooting while harassing them into almost 18 turnovers. Oregon was the only team to get within single-digits of Louisville at the buzzer. The Cardinals blew out Duke by 22 points. Russ Smith, the talent leading an athletic, disciplined and booming with confidence crew, is averaging 26 points while shooting 54.1% form the field during the tournament.
Wichita State have point guard Malcolm Armstead as their outstanding individual performer, averaging 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists over the last four games, outplaying Aaron Craft to the surprise of many as Wichita State pulled their usual brand of basketball against Ohio State, using their number one weapon to eliminate opponents in the off-season: Their 3-point shot defense, keeping teams at 25.3% while shooting 34.3% themselves.
Prediction – If Wichita State avoid the turnovers, usually the Achilles heel of teams in the tournament, we might have ourselves a close game. If the 3-ball doesn’t drop, it’s going to be very hard for them to keep Louisville at bay.