The Maui Invitational Championship matchup is set and it’s what most of us were hoping for. Wichita State took care of Marquette and Notre Dame destroyed LSU in the semifinals on Tuesday to set up a championship bout late night on the East Coast Wednesday night between two teams in the top-13 nationally.
There are a lot of similarities between these two teams. Both Wichita State and Notre Dame have experienced coaches who have been with the program for several years now, if not longer. And there will be a lot of seniority on the floor for both sides.
But while Notre Dame likes to shoot the three, Wichita State relies less on the shot beyond the arc than any other top team in the country. Wichita State only shot 19 three’s against Marquette yesterday and it only made six of them. Notre Dame, by contrast, went 15-for-32 against LSU in its semifinal matchup.
Traditionalists love watching the Shockers because they play hard-nosed and work the ball inside for points in the paint. Even new-age basketball fans like watching them because they play good basketball. But the lack of three-point shooting will almost certainly hurt Wichita State against some of the better competition it will face this year. The first case for that claim to be true will be Wednesday night in the championship against a terrific Notre Dame team.
The Fighting Irish are tough. It doesn’t hang its hat on its toughness like Wichita State does, but it will rough it up with the Shockers and come out just fine on the other side. It also has just as much talent as WSU does, if not more. Matt Farrell doesn’t have lottery pick potential but he is as effective as any guard in the country, save maybe the top two or three. He plays heady basketball and can knock it down from well beyond the college three-point arc. But Temple Gibbs scored a team-high 26 in yesterday’s win. Gibbs isn’t as consistent as Farrell but he doesn’t have to be. He’s scored 21, 23 and 26 in three of his last five games, alternating those games with single-digit scoring totals.
Then there’s Bonzie Colson who will feel right at home against Wichita State in the post. In fact, he could probably thrive for Gregg Marshall and the Shockers if he were to switch programs. Colson is going for better than 19 and 10 so far this season and he’s yet to really get going. At 6’6″, he’s a bruiser who is used to getting points and rebounds by outworking the opponent. That might not happen against Wichita State, but neither will the Shockers get anything cheap against Colson. It will be a great matchup to watch WSU’s bigs against the senior who is expected to be in the running for the ACC Player of the Year.
This is a fantastic matchup and one that I can’t wait to tune into late night before Thanksgiving. It’s really one of the joys of being alive this time of year.
Free Pick: Notre Dame +3