The Kansas State Wildcats officially Elite. And that status has been earned in nearly improbable fashion.
In round one, the Wildcats soundly beat a Creighton Bluejays team that should have posed more of a challenge. Next, the Cats took on the ultimate Cinderella in the UMBC Retrievers, and sent them home in a game that was never pretty. Then the Wildcats took on the blue version from Kentucky, and the purple Wildcats slew the team loaded with NBA prospects, even after finishing the game playing five guards thanks to foul trouble.
It’s been a wild, fun ride, and it’s not over yet. Next up, the Wildcats will take on the last remaining feel-good Cinderella story, and once again K-State will have to play the role of the villain as they take on the Loyola Ramblers and their patron saint Sister Jean. And like the game against UMBC, this feels more like a game that you’d see at Bramlage in mid-November than at this level of the NCAA Tournament. There’s a reason they call it March Madness.
The Wildcats have an uphill battle to reach the Final Four. Since the 1964 squad won their regional final, six K-State squads have advanced to the round of eight but no farther. But history does provide some fun twists. That 1964 team also faced a Missouri Valley team in the Elite Eight, beating Wichita State 94-86 to advance to K-State’s last Final Four appearance.
Don’t expect Dean Wade to play much, or at all today; though in a fun side note, the guy who won the Kansas high school Player of the Year award the year before Wade will be playing for the opponent: Clayton Custer. Custer joined his high school teammate Ben Richardson in Chicago after spending his freshman season at Iowa State. Custer and Richardson are both very familiar to one Wildcat, as they were teammates at Blue Valley Northwest with senior guard Mason Schoen - on a team that went 25-0 and won the 6A state title in their senior season.
K-State just needs to do what it has been all tournament. Find someone to hit some shots early, play suffocating defense, and then make sure Barry Brown has the ball in his hands at the end of the game. It’s a simple strategy, but we are in Weberville, and nothing is simple here. But the enthusiasm in town is at an all-time high, so let’s ride the wave.
Today’s Elite Eight match-up is scheduled for a 5:09 p.m. CDT tip-off (approximate) from the Philips Arena in Catlanta, GA. The game can be seen on television on TBS, or online (or mobile) via NCAA March Madness Live, with Brian Anderson (play-by-play), Chris Webber (analyst), and Lisa Byington (sideline reporter) on the call. Be sure and check out Jon Morse’s full How To Watch post for more details.
The game can be heard over-the-air on the K-State Sports Network with Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play) and Stan Weber (analyst) on the call (you can also listen online for free at TuneIn.com or at KStateSports.com). You can also listen to the national broadcast from Westwood One with Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play) and John Thompson (analyst) for free on the March Madness Live App or at www.ncaa.com/marchmadnesslive. Satellite radio, with the national broadcast, is available on Sirius 137, XM 201, and “Internet” 962.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Kansas State (25-11)
G: #2 Cartier Diarra
G: #3 Kamau Stokes
G: #5 Barry Brown Jr.
G: #20 Xavier Sneed
F: #14 Makol Mawien
G: #5 Marques Townes
G: #13 Clayton Custer
F: #14 Ben Richardson
F: #0 Donte Ingram
F: #25 Cameron Krutwig