A number four seed for a team picked 5th in their conference’s preseason poll is a pretty good accomplishment. The Kansas State Wildcats (27-7), Big 12 regular season co-champions and conference tournament runner-up, will play as a #4 seed in the West Region in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats first two games, should they win the first, will be in Kansas City in the Sprint Center.
The Wildcats do not yet know who they play first. Their game, scheduled to be played at approximately 2:10 on Friday, will be against either LaSalle (21-9) or Boise State (21-10). These two teams play Wednesday in Dayton to determine who gets to play Kansas State.
A #4 seed is a very good reward for a terrific season but it could be argued that the Wildcats are under seeded just a little. They lost seven games over the course of the season but 4 of those losses came to #1 seeds (3 to Kansas and another to Gonzaga). Their other three losses came to tournament teams including Michigan (#4), Oklahoma State (#5), and Iowa State (#10). The latter two were on the road and the Michigan game was on a neutral court. The Wildcats also beat Florida (#3) at a neutral site. Marquette, #3 seed in the lost to Florida and the Wildcats finished first in their conference and second in their conference tournament, the same as Florida, and better than Marquette. The Big 12 was certainly better than the SEC, so there is a case to be made that K-State could have made a three seed over one of those teams. Kansas State did not have any bad losses on the season. Still, Wildcat fans should be happy with their placement.
In the West Region bracket, the Wildcats will have to face either Wisconsin or Ole Miss. The Badgers, the #4 seed, like to play a brutal, rough style of game at as slow a pace as possible. If the k-State was to survive the first weekend, there is a good chance they would get a rematch with #1 seed Gonzaga. The Bulldogs beat KSU in December by 16 in Seattle. It will be a tough road to an Elite Eight berth but there isn’t a team in their bracket they can’t beat when they are moving the ball well and hitting their open looks on offense, and they can be as tough defensively as any team.
Kansas State has two legitimate stars in All Big 12 performers Rodney McGruder, who easily could have been the league MVP, and Angel Rodriguez. The rest of the players are more role fillers at this point but several have had big moments throughout the season. A key for the Wildcats will be if Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Will Spradling can get completely healthy by Friday. The Wildcats will need Henriquez’s inside presence and Spradling’s fierce team play,to advance very far. Coach Brice Weber’s tournament experience will be a big plus for Kansas State. Coach Weber has a Final Four to his credit and knows what it will take to get the Wildcats there.
The Wildcats get to play close to home so fans can get to the Sprint Center this weekend and create a hostile environment for the Kansas State opponents. It is the first time in 49 years Kansas State has played a tournament game in Kansas City. Hopefully, the team and its fans will make it count.