BOZICH | Kentucky favored by 1, but Wichita eager for NCAA rematch
Wichita State did not play like a 10-seed against Dayton Friday. The Shockers are eager for a chance to prove themselves again Sunday against Kentucky.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDRB) – The Wichita State basketball staff was convinced the Shockers had uncovered a shooter who could take as many perimeter shots as he wanted. His name was Mychal Mulder.
“We were on Mulder before anybody,” said Devon Brown, Wichita’s manager of player development. “We were in great shape.”
You know what happened next: Kentucky called.
“It was over,” Brown said.
Wichita also needed a post player. The Shockers don’t start anybody taller than 6 feet 8. The center the staff wanted to sign was Isaac Humphries.
“We were on great shape with him, too,” Brown said.
You know what happened: Kentucky called.
“That was over, too,” Brown said.
Kentucky wobbled past Northern Kentucky Friday night in the Wildcats’ opening NCAA Tournament game. Kentucky won the game, 79-70, but Northern Kentucky won the second half, 46-41.
The Wildcats’ reward is a second-round game Sunday against the Shockers. If Kentucky plays against Wichita the way the Wildcats played against NKU ... use your imagination ...
The computer formulas already have. Ken Pomeroy's computer formula projects a close game. How close? He had it UK 79, Wichita 78, putting the Wildcats' win probability at 51 percent. Jeff Sagarin's numbers tilt toward UK by 1.38. The line was not posted in Las Vegas at 9 a.m.
“We don’t get chances like ACC schools and Big East schools,” Wichita forward Markis McDuffie said. “We’ve got to win as many games as we can. We don’t get chances like those big-time schools. We have to do whatever it takes to get in there.”
The two UK players that Wichita recruited – Mulder and Humphries – started the game on John Calipari’s bench. Neither guy scored. They only combined to play six minutes.
You know the story lines that will unfold on this weekend. Kentucky’s king-sized talent edge. Wichita’s persistent ire that a team that won its 31st game Friday was rewarded with a 10-seed, like 9-loss VCU, 12-loss Marquette and 13-loss Oklahoma State.
And, of course, that Wichita will forever remain annoyed and haunted by the game an unbeaten Shockers’ team lost to Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis three years ago.
In 2014, the Shockers were the one-seed, a team that had won 35 straight. Kentucky was the 8-seed, a group that had lost nine times before the NCAA Tournament began.
Kentucky 78, Wichita State 76.
James Young hit a jumbo three-pointer for the Wildcats. Fred VanVleet, Wichita’s point guard, missed a game-winning three-pointer at the top of the key.
“It came down to a last shot and we were basically predicted to go all the way,” Wichita center Shaquille Morris said. “It was tough for us.
“Just knowing we’re back on the court, three or four years ago losing to them. You just have a little chip on your shoulder.
“It’s Kentucky, though. Whoever plays Kentucky, Kentucky’s a huge target, a huge program. That’s one of the best programs in college basketball.”
There is nobody on Wichita’s roster that received a recruiting letter with a Lexington post-mark. Gregg Marshall shakes out five-star results from three-star talent, an assortment of high school, prep school and junior college players from Virginia, Texas, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kansas and New Jersey.
The New Jersey kid is McDuffie, a forward who played some AAU basketball with Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky’s sophomore guard. McDuffie played at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City for the most powerful high school program in the state.
Kentucky never called.
“Oh, no,” McDuffie said. “I ain’t that good.”
Not one letter? The Wildcats recruit New Jersey hard. It’s where they found Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Karl Anthony-Towns and Briscoe.
“Not at all,” McDuffie said. “Not at all.”
Doubt the Shockers at your own risk. They’re accustomed to being dismissed. Although Wichita has won 22 of its last 23 games, they’re a 10-seed that should have been no worse than a 5-seed. Ask Archie Miller. His Dayton team lost to Wichita, 64-58, with the Flyers the higher (7) seed.
“They’re a team that can beat anybody on a neutral court at any time,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t pushing towards a second weekend.”
“It’s Kentucky and Wichita State,” Morris said. “It’s something the committee seems to love seeing.”
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