First Four Preview: Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State (24-8)

Conference: Missouri Valley Conference

Tournament history: 15-13 in 13 appearances with six Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights and two Final Four appearances (1965, 2013)

Key players: G Ron Baker, 6-4, Sr. (14.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg), G Fred VanVleet, 6-0, Sr. (12.0 ppg, 5.7 apg), F Anton Grady, 6-8, Sr. (8.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg), F Zach Brown, 6-6, So. (7.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg), F Shaquille Morris, 6-8, So. (6.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

Key stat: Wichita State ranks No. 1 in the country for scoring defense (59.3 ppg).

Could make a tournament run if… its stingy defense holds up. WSU didn’t play the toughest of schedules, but did beat then-No. 25 Utah 67-50. If the Shockers can play that kind of defense in the tournament, they could be tough to beat.

Will struggle if… it falls behind early. Shooting just 33 percent from 3-point range, the Shockers don’t have the ability to climb back from big deficits.

Etc: The Shockers are making their fifth straight NCAA appearance but aren’t the attention-grabbing mid-major of years past, which included two Sweet 16s and a run to the Final Four in 2013. They started the season 5-5 while suffering injuries to point guard Fred VanVleet and forward Anton Grady, but much healthier down the stretch, they won 19 of their last 22, and sit at No. 12 in the reputable rankings. WSU isn’t the best scoring team, but its defense almost always gives it a chance to win. They won their third straight MVC regular-season title but lost 57-52 in overtime to Northern Iowa in the MVC semifinals.

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