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Preview: Wichita State vs. Pittsburgh

Preview: Wichita State vs. Pittsburgh

Wichita State earned its second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth despite losing its final two regular-season games and dropping the Missouri Valley Conference final, The ninth-seeded Shockers, who will face eighth-seeded Pittsburgh in the second round of the West Region on Thursday, will vie for their first tournament victory since 2006. The Panthers missed the Big Dance last season for the first time since 2001, but closed their Big East campaign with four straight wins before losing to Syracuse in the conference tournament quarterfinal.

Pittsburgh proved its worth with wins over ranked opponents Georgetown, Syracuse and Cincinnati, but also struggled by losing three of four to start conference play - and three of six leading into its four-game winning streak to end the season. Wichita State dropped a season-high three consecutive games from Jan. 29-Feb. 5 and was held to 62 points or fewer in each contest. Junior forward Cleanthony Early and senior forward Carl Hall drive the Shockers' offense, averaging a combined 26.4 points.

TV: 1:40 p.m. ET, TBS

ABOUT PITTSBURGH (24-8): Senior Tray Woodall, who leads the team with 11.8 points and 5.2 assists, totaled nine points, 10 assists and six rebounds in two tournament games in 2011. During that season, Pittsburgh qualified as a No.1 seed but lost to Butler in the second round. Woodall missed significant time in 2011-12 with an abdominal injury and was absent for most of the eight-game losing streak that erased the Panthers' tournament hopes. Junior Talib Zanna grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds in an overtime victory over Villanova on March 3. Combined with freshman Steven Adams, the two big men average 12.2 boards per game and should provide a defensive answer to Wichita State's inside scoring.

ABOUT WICHITA STATE (26-8): By sinking 31 of 73 attempts from 3-point range, junior Nick Wiggins is the Shockers' top option from behind the arc. Wiggins, however, has seen limited minutes in three of his last four games. Senior Malcolm Armstead, who missed Wichita State's NCAA Tournament appearance last season after transferring from Oregon, scored a career-high 28 points in the team's Missouri Valley Conference tournament final loss. Hall scored 10 points and added eight rebounds in the Shockers' opening-round loss to Virginia Commonwealth in last year's NCAA Tournament.

TIP-INS

  1. Pittsburgh has 23 previous NCAA Tournament appearances and has won at least one game in 16 of them. Wichita State has advanced past the first round in four of its nine previous appearances.

  2. The Shockers advanced to the Final Four in 1965 and the Panthers did the same in 1941.

  3. The winner of this game will face the winner of No. 1 Gonzaga versus No.16 Southern University.

PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 63, Wichita State 58