Iowa (3-2) vs. Wichita State (2-3)
Date: November 29, 2015
Time: 9:00 a.m. CT
Location: HP Field House, Orlando
Line: Iowa -5
I'm going to go out on a limb and say the organizers of the Advocare Invitational did not see this coming.
Three of four games in Sunday's final session of the early-season tournament are set to be on television. The only exception: The seventh-place game, a game that features the top Kenpom team entering the tournament and one of the hottest mid-major programs in the nation over the last half-decade. But hey, at least the world gets to marvel at the majesty of an intra-Ohio basketball game being played in Orlando later.
As it is, Wichita State is a bit of a mess. The Shockers have been the Shockees in three games this season, losing to USC, Alabama and Tulsa, and while that is perfectly acceptable for a football team, those are bad basketball losses. WIchita has been one of the nation's worst shooting teams so far, making just 31 percent from three and 41 percent from inside the arc. They are also committing fouls at an absurd rate, with opponents taking 1.1 free throws per two shot attempts The Shockers are pretty good at everything else: They rank among the nation's top 65 in offensive and defensive efficiency, turnover rate, turnovers caused, rebounding on both sides of the court, and steals created. Their struggles are pretty simple, then: They aren't making shots, and they're letting opponents get easy points at the free throw line.
Wichita has been hammered with injuries. Star guard Fred Van Vliet has not played in the Shockers' last three games, due to ankle and hamstring injuries. Senior forward Anton Grady will also miss Sunday morning's game after suffering a scary spinal cord injury in Wichita's loss to Alabama. Freshman guard Landry Shamet, who would be the most logical replacement for Van Vliet's scoring production, is out 10-12 weeks with a foot problem.
That leaves senior forward Ron Baker (6'4, 210, 20.2 ppg) as Wichita's only real offensive threat. Baker is shooting 42 percent overall, 41 percent from three (16/39 already), and adding 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal for good measure. He has been a four-year contributor for the Shockers, and is a legitimate threat to go big if not sufficiently handled. After that, there's forward Markis McDuffie (6'8, 185, 8.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg) and guard Ty Taylor (6'2, 150, 5.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.8 apg), but they're fill-ins at best. This team is Baker and some other guys, and stopping Baker makes it extremely difficult for them to do much.
Iowa has a gigantic size advantage -- Wichita's only player over 6'8 is little-used center Tom Wamukota; Grady played the post, for the most part -- a fairly perfect defensive setup for Baker, and enough weapons to simply outscore Wichita absent an out-of-nowhere performance by one or two of the supporting cast. And if you wanted a potential win that will look much better in March than it does in November, this is it. To put it simply, Iowa should win these games, and if it's not, there is big trouble with Florida State and Iowa State coming up in the next couple of weeks.