When the Midwest Regional was announced, the matchup that stood out to people more than any other, even more than a potential Elite 8 rematch with Kentucky, was a possible second round match with Wichita State. The Shockers have been begging to play Kansas for a couple of years now, and Kansas has (rightly) refused to do any sort of 1 for 1 type of deal. The wait could be over Sunday if Kansas gets by New Mexico State and Wichita State gets by the Hoosiers.
But, while Wichita State ranks 14th in KenPom, and Indiana ranks 53rd, is it possible the Jayhawks would prefer to see the Shockers on Sunday?
We'll start with Indiana. The Hoosiers are a pretty small team, ranking 255th in effective height, and they allow teams to shoot 51 percent on twos this season. They basically invite teams to the rim, ranking 323rd in allowing shots at the rim, and 247th in FG% allowed at the rim. Only two Hoosiers have block percentages over 6%, and one of them, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, might be out for the game due to injury.
Case closed, right?
Indiana can absolutely fill it up from three, ranking 7th nationally at 40.3 percent. The Hoosiers shot 40.4 percent to lead the Big Ten, and they shoot quite a few of them. Indiana has six players shooting 38 percent or better from three, and they force you to basically outscore them. Freshman James Blackmon is the rare player who is a freshman, a go to scorer, an efficient one, and one who doesn't turn the ball over. Point guard Yogi Ferrell is small, but a lights out shooter and a point guard who doesn't turn the ball over.
This isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, but if the Hoosiers are on from behind the arc they can beat anybody, but if not they can lose to about anybody. Even with Kansas's issues scoring, they'd probably be able to score a boatload against the Hoosiers, who ranked 13th defensively in the Big 10. Still, I'd rather not trust my season to whether or not a team who can shoot threes incredibly well makes a ton of them.
Wichita State is a bit tougher to evaluate. The Shockers' KenPom statistics are honestly nearly useless thanks to the level of competition they played. They played just 2 power 5 opponents, going 1-1 against them (both were close games, an OT loss at a good Utah team and a one point win at home to a terrible Alabama team). The Shockers led the Missouri Valley in both offense and defense but, again, it's the Valley.
Like Indiana, Wichita State is a good matchup in that it ranks 275th in effective height, and doesn't have a shot blocker. Unlike Indiana, however, they rank 32nd in FG% allowed at the rim (again, though, a lot of that could be due to schedule).
The Shockers' most dangerous offensive player is junior Ron Baker, who shoots 50 percent from two and 38.5 percent from three. He doesn't offer much in the way of rebounding or assists, but he doesn't turn it over and can score at the rim, from midrange, and from deep. He's also part of a pretty good 1-2 punch defensively on the perimeter with Tekele Cotton, so Kansas will want Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre following him around, and will want to try to get him into foul trouble defensively, or at least run him around a bunch of screens to wear him out.
The popular choice for Wichita's best player is Fred Van Vleet. FVV has gone from an ancillary part of the offense last year to an integral part this year, and his efficiency has kept up. FVV shoots 45.5 percent on twos, 38 percent on threes, and has a 36.1 percent assist rate compared to just a 14 percent turnover rate.
However, I think he is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the Shockers' schedules. Van Vleet is a very good player, no doubt about it, but listed at 6' (and if he's 6 foot, I'm 6'6") and not the quickest player in the world, it's only natural he would struggle a bit more against the athletes at high majors vs the ones in the Valley:
|Against P5 teams
And, since that is a sample of just 2 games, for 2014:
With the overall sample of P5 teams played being just 5 games, that's obviously not a large enough sample to make a 100% determination, but I do think it is at least somewhat telling that he consistently plays worse against power 5 teams, sample size be damned.
While Van Vleet's stats against power 5 teams aren't bad, they're not the otherworldly stats he piles up against Missouri Valley teams. Last year they could get away with that a bit more easily with Cleanthony Early and with Van Vleet having less of a role in the offense. But this year, with Van Vleet being such an integral cog, the Shockers can't afford him to drop below his level of excellence even a little bit.
It's also worth noting that the Shockers held those Power 5 teams under a point per possession twice, and overall allowed 1.08 points per possession against those power 5 teams.
This is all without getting into the motivation aspect of things. That is much tougher to handicap because obviously Wichita State will be extra fired up to play Kansas, but I have to think Kansas would be extra fired up to play the shockers, and I can't imagine motivation would ever be an issue in the NCAA tournament regardless.
So who would Kansas rather play? Honestly there are pros and cons to each opponent, and I think Kansas would emerge victorious either way, but Indiana certainly seems the less stressful of the two.