Skip to content

As the last Cinderella, can Cleanthony Early and Wichita State reach the Final Four?

Mar 30, 2013, 11:00 AM EST

Wichita State AP

Three mid-majors advanced to the Sweet 16, but now only one remains. Wichita State beat La Salle to earn a spot in the Elite Eight, set to play Ohio State on Saturday for a trip to the Final Four.

But can the Shockers shock the college basketball world and beat one of the Big Ten’s elite teams? It will come down to a few important factors, most importantly forward Cleanthony Early.

When Wichita State struggled during a stretch of the Missouri Valley schedule this season, it was a matter of the offensive stalling in the half court and going long stretches without scoring. That typically meant both Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall (now sans his signature dreads) were not involved or were kept from getting involved.

Look at Early in particular to see why Wichita State has been able to make this run. In two games when he was most important to the Shockers, against Pittsburgh and Gonzaga with their size inside, he was a focal point of the offense and he produced. Against Pittsburgh, Early had 21 points and seven rebounds then following that up with 16 points and seven rebounds against the Bulldogs.

Not only that, but Early did it in differing ways. Against Pittsburgh, he was 0-of-6 from three-point range but was able to get to the line and hit seven of his eight free throws. Against Gonzaga, it was nearly entirely reversed. He was 4-of-7 from three-point range against the Bulldogs and did not make a trip to the line.

Ideally, Early would strike a balance between the two versus Ohio State. The typically stifling Ohio State defense would be hurt by either getting into foul trouble or an effectively spaced Wichita State attack.

That also means that Wichita State point guard Malcolm Armstead will need to limit his turnovers and be a facilitator on the offensive end of the floor. If Armstead is strong with the ball, that opens up quality shots for the Shockers and gives them the best opportunity to shoot a high percentage. That high percentage, in turn, keeps Ohio State from getting out in transition with point guard Aaron Craft and the rest getting creative in the scattered court.

Keep those factors in check means Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas will have to work for his points. It’s difficult to completely neutralize Thomas, but working to contain him gives Wichita State the best chance to win.

Either way, even being careful with the basketball and hitting shots, Wichita State needs to be ready for a grind on Saturday. Don’t expect an 87-85 game like Friday night between Kansas and Michigan. We just won’t see it.

Tip off is at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Latest Posts
  1. Kansas will sit Cliff Alexander against Texas as NCAA issue could affect eligibility

    Feb 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    Cliff Alexander (AP Photo) AP

    Kansas will be without Cliff Alexander against Texas on Saturday.

  2. Bubble Banter: St. John’s with a huge win, N.C. State with an ugly loss

    Feb 28, 2015, 2:27 PM EST

    Mark Gottfried (AP Photo) Mark Gottfried (AP Photo)

    All the bubble winners and losers from Saturday’s college hoops action.

  3. #POSTERIZED: Jake Layman runs and hides, still gets dunked on (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 1:55 PM EST

    Jake Layman AP

    Jake Layman didn’t want to get dunked on.

  4. #POSTERIZED: Montrezl Harrell destroys Florida State defender (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 12:21 PM EST

    Pittsburgh v Louisville Getty Images

    Robbie Berwick is not going to like seeing this highlight.

  5. Auburn guard Antoine Mason will miss Saturday’s game to deal with the death of his father

    Feb 28, 2015, 11:15 AM EST

    Auburn Alabama Basketball AP

    Auburn will be without second-leading scorer Antoine Mason as he deals with the death of his father.

  6. Marist’s Khallid Hart hits a driving, game-winning layup to beat Saint Peter’s (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    (Marist Athletics) (Marist Athletics)

    Marist’s Khallid Hart made the game-winning layup with 1.5 seconds left for the win.

  7. Report: Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston accused of violating probation

    Feb 27, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    An off-campus altercation back in 2010 led to a year-long suspension for the Villanova forward.

  8. Jim Boeheim uses classic rant about Gerry McNamara to praise Rakeem Christmas

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:15 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Jim Boeheim goes back almost nine years to describe Rakeem Christmas’ importance to this year’s team.

  9. Campbell’s Reco McCarter throws down 360 dunk … again (VIDEO)

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    AP AP

    This isn’t the first time he’s done this in a game.

  10. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings will not be suspended

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:45 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Vandy coach was quick to apology following last night’s incident.

  11. Michigan head coach John Beilein remains ‘hopeful’ that point guard will return this season

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:25 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Derrick Walton Jr. hasn’t played in just over a month, but he’s still bothered by an issue with his right foot.

  12. UTEP head coach Tim Floyd suspended one game by Conference USA

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:20 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Floyd was ejected with 10:05 remaining in the Miners’ 77-60 loss at Louisiana Tech, and he failed to leave the court in a timely manner.

  13. Florida reinstates junior forward following three-game suspension

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:59 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Billy Donovan would like to see his veteran forward make some strides in the commitment department moving forward.

  14. NCAA tournament berth the final step for St. John’s senior class

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:16 PM EST

    Steve Lavin's three seniors have the NCAA tournament in their sights (AP Photo) AP

    On the heels of St. John’s last NCAA appearance in 2011, seven players joined the program. Three remain, and their aim is to get to the Big Dance as seniors.

  15. Pregame Shootaround: Valparaiso looks to clinch outright Horizon League title

    Feb 27, 2015, 1:32 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Also of note is the second meeting of the season between rivals Iona and Manhattan.

  16. Junior guard starting to give No. 7 Arizona much-needed perimeter shooting

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:12 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Shooting 7-for-10 from three over the last two games, Gabe York has hit multiple three-pointers in consecutive games for the first time since mid-December. That’s a good development for Arizona.

  17. Bracketology: Kentucky reigns and March arrives

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:01 AM EST

    John Calipari, Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis John Calipari, Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis

    While the Wildcats continue to roll along, other one-seeds are up for discussion as the season moves into the month of March.