I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.
These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).
Wichita State (#5, South) – I’m a great fan of the Shockers, who finished the season atop our TO26 top 15 rankings. They have a balanced lineup that can do it all. Inside scoring presence? Garrett Stutz. Steady point guard play? Joe Ragland. Attacking guard? Toure’ Murry. Blue-collar enforcer? Carl Hall. Three-point marksmen? Ragland, Ben Smith, and David Kyles. And they back it up with a solid, steady defense. If this team has a weakness, it’s the lack of a single go-to player, which can come in handy in crunch time in March.
The key for the Shockers’ getting to the regionals may be slowing their games into halfcourt contests. They have a tough first-round draw against VCU and its frenetic defensive style. It will be a challenge to maintain calm amidst the storm that the Rams will bring – Murry in particular can play undisciplined — but if I had to make a call, I’d say that the Shockers will rise to the challenge and get the ball into the lane, where VCU is vulnerable. In the next round, Wichita State would likely face an Indiana team with a fast-paced offense, but somewhat softer defense that is susceptible to dribble penetration. Again, if the Shockers can slow things down and turn it into more of a halfcourt game, they could be on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.
Memphis (#8, West) – No team has a more legitimate grievance about its seed than the Tigers. They have steadily, but markedly, improved ever since a nearly two-hour closed door team meeting following a loss at Georgetown on December 22. Few have taken notice because it came mostly against C-USA competition, but during this stretch, the Tigers have gone 19-3, with their three losses coming by a combined total of 6 points. Oh, and freshman standout Adonis Thomas just returned to the lineup.