As Sports Illustrated’s’ Andy Staples breaks down the South Region in the upcoming 2012 NCAA Tournament, he holds the first round match-up between Wichita State and Virginia Commonwealth as his favorite. Specifically he calls it the “juiciest match-up”, but he makes his point well when analyzing the entertaining contest that opens up the region. He writes:
The Shockers will face Shaka Smart and the team that shocked college basketball in 2011. For VCU, this is a very different team than the one that raced from the First Four to the Final Four last year. Guard Bradford Burgess is the only returning starter, but the Rams have won 17 of 18 and guaranteed their place in the field by winning the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Wichita State, the regular-season champion of the Missouri Valley Conference, hasn’t been to the tournament since a Sweet 16 run in 2006, but Shockers coach Gregg Marshall has plenty of tourney experience. Marshall led Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments, beating sixth-seeded Notre Dame in the first round of the 2007 tournament.
The Shockers could present under-the-radar problems for other teams despite their 27-5 record, but first they must get past their own sleeper ahead of them. Shaka Smart could cement his status as one of the top young coaches in college basketball if he can work his magic two years running.
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