Shockers ready for Dayton in battle of talented mid-major squads
INDIANAPOLIS — In No. 7 seed Dayton’s Archie Miller and No. 10 seed Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Friday night’s South Regional opening-round matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse features two of the NCAA’s most sought-after coaches.
Whenever a Power 5 conference job opens up, Miller and Marshall almost always are mentioned as possibilities.
But at this point in the season, all they care about is surviving and advancing in the NCAA tournament, although Marshall isn’t sure pitting the Shockers against Dayton sends a very good message on the selection committee’s part.
“They’ve got to get rid of as many non-Power 5 conference teams as possible,” Marshall said. “They pit us against Dayton. They’ve had VCU against St. Mary’s. I am just glad we are in.”
Dayton comes in 24-7 while Wichita State is 30-4 after having won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship.
The Flyers come in on a two-game losing streak after having won nine in a row, featuring the Atlantic 10’s second-best defense and second-best field goal percentage. It will be the first meeting between Wichita State and Dayton since the 1962 NIT.
Dayton is a veteran team led by seniors Charles Cooke (16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds), Kendall Pollard (14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds) and Scoochie Smith (13.5 points, 4.5 assists).
The Flyers will be playing a Wichita State team that made a Final Four appearance in 2013 and has won 15 in a row since losing at Illinois State in January.
The Shockers led the Missouri Valley in scoring (82.1) and margin of victory (19.6). Wichita State has advanced past the tournament’s first weekend in three of the past four seasons.
Markis McDuffie (11.8 points, 5.7 rebounds), Landry Shamet (11.1 points, 3.3 assists) and Darral Willis, Jr. (10.2 points, 5.3 rebounds) lead the Shockers’ balanced attack.
McDuffie said playing Dayton is like playing an elite-level program.
“We are excited to play against high-major teams,” McDuffie said. “I feel like all year we have been preparing ourselves for this moment.”
As has Dayton’s Miller, who is happy with the Flyers’ seed and destination site.
“I thought a seven seed was generous for us,” Miller said. “Wichita State is a Final Four caliber program. Wichita State is an interesting No. 10 seed.
“It’s a great feeling being in Indianapolis. With our fans, I wish them good luck finding some tickets with Kentucky being there. But I am very, very excited to be playing on Friday night in Indy. It’s going to be a great show. I think our fans will show up in a wave.”
The winner of the Dayton-Wichita State game will advance to play on Sunday against the winner of the Kentucky-Northern Kentucky game.