The SEC had a down year this season. Kentucky was expected to run away with the conference, but they faced some obstacles along the way. If LSU would have materialized as a good team, maybe the conference would have received more at-large bids.
The Missouri Valley Conference is one of the best mid-major conferences. They’ve historically had pretty good success in the NCAA Tournament as well. Wichita State doesn’t come into the tournament as hot as the last two years, but don’t overlook them.
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The Vanderbilt Commordores were ranked in the top-25 this preseason. A lot was expected from this team. They started off with five-straight cupcake wins to open the year, but then lost games against Kansas, Baylor, Dayton and Purdue before the SEC season began. The Commodores then finished the conference schedule 11-7 against a pretty mediocre SEC field of teams. They have talent, but I’m still sitting here waiting for them to show it to us.
The Wichita State Shockers ‘almost’ didn’t make it to the tournament. Star senior Fred VanVleet missed an important stretch of games early in the season due to injury. The Shockers lost to USC, Alabama and Iowa while VanVleet was injured. Once he returned, it was business as usual for the Shockers. They won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season, but lost to Northern Iowa in overtime during the conference tournament. Without any true marquee wins, here they are in a play-in game.
If you think about it, this is an insane play-in game. Both teams were ranked this preseason and Wichita State had a case of bad luck with VanVleet out during a crucial part of the season. Vanderbilt is a very good team that started to play well late in the year with wins against Kentucky and Texas A&M. I just don’t think this is the end of the road for Wichita State. They are clearly under-seeded and underrated. The Shockers will move on to face Arizona in the first round.
Prediction: #11 Wichita State Shockers
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.