Drake plays Wichita State on TBS with a tip-off time of 6:27 PM ET in the play-in game to inherit the 11 seed in the west region of the NCAA tournament. The winner plays USC on Saturday.
Drake earned an at-large bid with their 25-4 record. They have dropped two of their last three games after losing to Loyola-Chicago in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament on March 7th.
The Bulldogs expect to get their leading scorer, ShanQuan Hemphill, back for this game. The senior forward was averaging 14.1 points-per-game and 6.3 rebounds-per-game before suffering a broken foot on February 10th. Drake went 6-3 in his absence. Sophomore Joseph Yesufu stepped up to average 23.1 points-per-game in his last seven games to fill the scoring gap.
The graver concern for head coach Darian DeVries might have been the season-ending leg injury to Roman Penn. The junior point guard was the second-leading scorer at 11.2 points-per-game, and he was averaging 5.5 assists-per-game before his injury on February 22nd.
Drake ranks 53rd in the kenpom ratings. Their highest-profile win was against Loyola-Chicago. Their next best accomplishment is three victories against a Missouri State team ranked 88th at kenpom. The Bulldogs lost to Bradley, Valparaiso, and the Ramblers twice.
The strength of this team is their shooting. Drake ranks 30th in the nation with an effective field goal percentage of 54.5%. They make 36.6% of their 3-point shots, ranking 53rd nationally, and they convert 54.4% of their shots inside the arc, ranking 29th nationally. The Bulldogs are 11th in the nation in turnover rate. Overall, Drake is 19th in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They rank 120th in adjusted defensive efficiency using the kenpom metrics. The Bulldogs hold their opponents to a 30.8% shooting percentage from 3-point range, ranking 35th nationally. They also limit their opponents to rebounding 24.9% of their missed shots, 63rd in the nation.
Wichita State earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament with a 16-5 record. Their eight-game winning streak was snapped in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference in a 60-59 loss upset loss to Cincinnati as a 5.5-point favorite last Saturday. That result was just the second time in 11 games this season that the Shockers lost a game decided by five points or less.
This team began learning how to handle adversity in November when Gregg Marshall got dismissed as their head coach amidst accusations of verbal and physical abuse against players and staff members. Isaac Brown was named the interim head coach. Brown inherited a team that experienced six departures in the offseason from a group that finished 23-8. The coaching staff earned the respect of the players that has grown into a tight-knit group. Nine players average at least 12.8 minutes-per-game. Tyson Etienne was named co-American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, with the sophomore averaging 17.0 points-per-game. Graduate transfer Alterique Gilbert from UConn added 10.3 points-per-game, with the point guard averaging 4.1 assists-per-game.
Wichita State ranks 74th in the kenpom ratings. They won the American Athletic Conference regular-season title with an 11-2 record. Their most impressive victories are against Houston and Ole Miss. The Shockers' losses were to Missouri, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Cincinnati, and the Cougars. These accomplishments earned Brown a five-year contract as their head coach.
The Shockers are 56th in adjusted offensive efficiency at kenpom. They play fundamental basketball with a turnover rate that is 27th best in the nation and with a free throw rate ranking 30th nationally. Brown’s team struggles with their shooting as they make only 44.7% of their shots inside the arc, ranking 322nd nationally. Wichita State is 103rd in adjusted defensive efficiency using the kenpom numbers. They limit their opponents to making 30.8% of their 3-point shots, ranking 37th nationally. Opponents have success crashing the offensive glass as they pull down 33.4% of their missed shots, ranking 333rd nationally.
Mackay Arena in West Lafayette is the site for the game. BookMaker
lists Drake as a 2.5-point favorite with the total set at 140.
Computer prediction: Drake 71 Wichita State 70