MAUI, HI – The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will face their biggest opponent to date in #6 Wichita State after demolishing the LSU Tigers in the semi finals, 92-53.
The last time these two programs faced each other was during the regional semi-final of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, in which the Irish took down the Shockers, 81-70.
This was a game that everyone expected to happen, but also what everyone wanted as two of college basketball’s great but underrated programs will clash for the 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament title.
Notre Dame is proving they are a force to be reckoned with on the court, behind their big three in Matt Farrell, Bonzie Colson and the emerging T.J. Gibbs, while Wichita State is constantly snubbed every year but have the talent to be a top three team.
This game will be interesting, to say the least.
This is a Wichita State team that one could easily make the case that they could be a top three team in the country. While they don’t possess players that are high on the draft boards of NBA general managers, they return an experienced team who has played lots of college basketball and who know the system.
They return their entire starting lineup as well as their top nine scorers from last year’s team that almost upset the second-seed Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Even without Markis McDuffie to start the season, the Shockers are a perfect 4-0, and show no signs of slowing down.
Three Players to Watch
As a red-shirt senior, Shaquille Morris has played lots of basketball, and was even on the team when Wichita last met Notre Dame. Martinas Geben has the height advantage over over (Geben: 6″10, Morris: 6″8), but still has talent to make up for it as the Wichita State’s career leader in points is averaging 17.5 points and six rebounds per game in 2017-18.
Notre Dame will have to find away to get Shamet out of his rhythm, as the sophomore is shooting 64.7% from the field and 62.5% from three this season. The 20-year-old, fourth team All-American is averaging the second most points on the team with 17.3 He is the Shockers’ go-to guy when they need points. Expect Rex Pflueger to be glued to him all night long.
Darral Willis Jr.
Averaging 11.8 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game, Willis Jr. is a key piece on both ends of the floor for Gregg Marshall’s crew. He is second on the team in rebounding, trailing only Rashard Kelly, who averages 9.0 boards per contest. While he’s had a quiet Maui Invitational so far, Willis, Jr. is capable of going for a double-double on any given night. With Wichita State having so many options on offense, the Irish can’t afford to take a possession off.
Dark Horse Player
As stated above, the Shockers have several top-quality options on offense, and Haynes-Jones is one of them. After going for 11 points, four rebounds and five assists in his Wichita State debut, he’s been used in a reserve role over the past three games. The junior point guard has racked up 11 assists over his first four games, while committing just two turnovers. He takes good care of the ball, and can score at a decent clip, which is all you can ask for from your backup point guard.
Notre Dame: 85
Wichita State: 81
Tip off is set for 10:30 PM EST, another late night for east coast fans, and will be broadcasted live on ESPN 2.