It’s been a long time since it’s been possible to start an article with the words “Marcus Foster and the Kansas State Wildcats head to...”
Well, wait no longer.
Marcus Foster and the Kansas State Wildcats head to Charlotte, N.C., for the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Friday. The Wildcats drew a nine-seed and will take on the Creighton Bluejays for the right to, presumably, face top-seeded Virginia on Sunday in the South Regional.
K-State’s game will tip Friday at 5:50pm CT on TNT.
Virginia faces Maryland-Baltimore County in Charlotte’s late game; the Cavaliers face no credible threat from the Retrievers.
In the end, K-State landed the fifth Big 12 spot in the bracket. Kansas claimed the top seed in the Midwest and get to play the opening game Thursday in Wichita. They’ll face Ivy League champs Pennsylvania in the first round; Penn is one of the best 16-seeds by KenPom in a long, long time. Eight-seeded Seton Hall and nine-seed North Carolina State will face one another 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game. The late games in Wichita feature the West Regional as six-seed Houston takes on 11th-seeded San Diego State, followed by the third-seeded Michigan Wolverines facing the 14th seed, Big Sky champions Montana.
The other top seeds were Villanova and Xavier. Who said the Big East was dead?
Texas Tech grabbed the third seed in the East Regional. They’re rewarded with the relatively short trip to Dallas, where they’ll open the evening session on Thursday against a team with an even shorter trip: the 14th-seeded Southland champs, Stephen F. Austin. The winner there gets either sixth-seed Florida or the 11th seed, which will be the winner of Tuesday’s late play-in game between St. Bonaventure and UCLA.
The fifth seed in the East is West Virginia, who get the second early game out in San Diego on Friday against 12th-seeded Murray State. This is one of the most interesting pods in the tournament. The Mountaineers face the possibility of a second-round matchup with either in-state “rival” Marshall, who drew the 13th seed, or with the third of the three Division I teams in Kansas as Wichita State is the fourth seed in the East.
The final Big 12 team with a better seed than K-State is TCU. The Frogs claimed the sixth seed in the Midwest, and they’re heading to Detroit for the late game Friday night. They’ll face the winner of Wednesday’s big-name late play-in between Arizona State and Syracuse. A win Friday would give TCU a shot at either third-seeded Michigan State or 14th-seeded Bucknell on Sunday.
Two other Big 12 teams made the tournament as 10-seeds. Oklahoma travels to Pittsburgh on Thursday where they’ll get the early game and face the seventh seed in the West, Rhode Island. The reward for a win there would be second-seed Duke unless perpetual tournament darling Iona manages the 15-2 upset. Texas is in action on Friday in Nashville, meeting Nevada in the second game of the early session. Cincinnati, the two-seed, faces Georgia State in the early game.
The Baylor Bears were in the first four out, as evidenced by their top seeding in the NIT. They’ll host Wagner in the opening round of that tournament on Tuesday night, with the Mississippi State/Nebraska winner waiting in the wings.
The second four out included Oklahoma State Cowboys, who also get to host a first-round NIT game on Tuesday against Dunk City. The winner of that game gets either Stanford or BYU in round two.
That leaves Iowa State as the lone Big 12 team watching from the sidelines this March.