Team Profile: 2007 BracketBuster Preview: Appalachian State at Wichita State
With its limited market saturation, “The U” may as well be “The Ocho.” And that’s unfortunate, because this could be one of the BracketBuster’s best games, and it certainly has bubble and seeding implications.With neutral-court wins over Virginia and Vanderbilt, and road wins at Davidson and VCU, the Mountaineers (19-6, 11-3) could make a strong case for an at-large bid with a win in Wichita.
The Shockers (17-9, 8-7) are one of the country’s most difficult teams to figure out, peaking as a Top 10 team after wins at Syracuse and LSU before sliding to six losses in seven games after the start of Christmas vacation. A sweep of the final three games of the season is now critical to earning an at large bid. After App State, the Shockers face Missouri State at home and Creighton in Omaha.
“I don’t look at standings and RPI numbers. If we [had] won three or four more games maybe we’d be paying attention to [them], but we didn’t,” Wichita State head coach Mark Turgeon said in the Feb. 6 MVC teleconference. It’s a good thing Turgeon doesn’t pay attention to those numbers, because they’re not in Wichita’s favor (72 in both the conference and non-conference formulas).
Key Matchup:App State’s Nathan Cranford vs. Wichita’s Sean Ogirri
Neither of these players is his team’s first option, but both need a strong showing if their teams are going to win. Cranford is one of three seniors that plays more than 25 minutes and has scored in double figures in eight of the last 10 games. Of the Mountaineers that earn significant minutes, the 6’2” guard is the team’s best three-point shooter, knocking down triples at a 41% clip. A 24-point performance against Virginia proves he can play with the big boys.
Kyle Wilson steals the headlines for the Shockers but he needs fellow wing player Couisnard (12.0 ppg, 50% FG) to shoulder some of the load in a big game like this. Couisnard is an excellent free-throw shooter, so the more he gets to the basket (11 times in Wichita’s last game, against Illinois State), the better. His penetration will also be critical in order to leave Wilson and G Sean Ogirri open for some outside shots.
Prediction: Wichita State 64, Appalachian State 57
Appalachian State’s best wins are away from home this year, so they’ll certainly be ready for the tough environment of Koch Arena. But we sense Wichita State will play with a sense of urgency not yet seen this year. And if Wilson and Ogirri can finally get hot from outside (and keep App State’s trio of three-point shooters from doing so), we won’t be “shocked” by a WSU victory.