Late start, and a lot of hoops talk to cover. Let’s get to it.
After qualifying for its first Sweet-16 appearance since the Elite-8 run of 2010, K-State is getting some attention it has not enjoyed in some time. John Clay at the Lexington Herald-Leader even broke down Five Things to Know about the Wildcats, as if Kentucky has genuine concerns about beating them. His lead-off? The true but dismissive statement that K-State has “had a tough time against tough teams.” (Good. Good. Don’t take that farm school seriously. Look ahead to the Final Four. Let the arrogance flow through you.)
Kellis Robinett returned fire with his Five Things to Know about Kentucky. (Why is it always five, I wonder?) He notes they are big, athletic, freshman-dominated, and SEC proud. Dust off and recycle this article again next year. Hell, every year. Be careful with this link, incidentally. It brings up the head of a hideous monster.
Eric Usleaman at SBNation sister site Sea of Blue wonders whether Dean Wade will return for the game. He notes that Wade could be a game-changer, although Kentucky is the rare team with the length on the perimeter to match him.
Xavier Sneed has been getting much-deserved love for the plays he made to help K-State dispose of UMBC. Though the highlight dunks have garnered the most attention, Ryan Black at the Mercury focuses on a quieter, concentration-dependent play: the baseline jumper Sneed hit to push the score to 46-41—a two-possession game. Black notes that Sneed “lives for these moments.” Sneed has no favorite among his three key buckets, but teammate Cartier Diarra had no problem choosing one. He loved the follow-slam. David Smale, special to the Capital-Journal, also chronicled how Sneed Came up Big for the ‘Cats.
“Sweet” is the word of the week. The Mercury editorial board calls K-State’s 17th appearance in the round of 16, earned without its best player, Dean Wade, available the Sweet one to Remember. David Smale wrapped up his special assignment to the Capital-Journal with a breakdown of the UMBC contest under the headline “How Sweet it is.”
It’s not all ice cream and lollipops, though. As Pete Gratholf recounted for the Star, ESPN trolled the entire state of Kansas by reseeding the remaining sixteen teams and tabbing K-State (a 9-seed in the actual bracket, of course) as the last 4-seed. That’s 16th of 16 teams, for my fellow English majors. Keep in mind, Loyola-Chicago, an actual 11-seed that won both of its games in the last seconds, and Syracuse, a play-in game 11-seed, remain in the field, as does fellow 9-seed Florida State.
As noted, the reseed article trolled the entire state of Kansas. It placed KU, a 1-seed in the initial pairings, as a 3-seed now, 10th overall. We are probably living with this imaginary rebracketing better than our step-cousins down the road.
After being called the best basketball league in the country several years in a row, only to underachieve at tourney time, the Big 12 has as many teams (4) in the sweet sixteen as that other hoops juggernaut, the ACC. Unfortunately, only one of the four is the betting and seed favorite. We’ve already exceeded our limit on name mentions for that school (and in a much more enjoyable context), so you’ll have to look for yourself if you don’t know which it is.
Finally, the Sporting News dropped its picks and predictions for the K-State/Kentucky match-up. I’ll sum up: They don’t like our chances. But given that they also believe K-State’s most famous alum is Kirstie Alley, I don’t think we have to put an ounce of stock into anything else they say. You could have picked someone else, Sporting News. Like, Maybe, Eric Stonestreet. Or Jordy Nelson. Or Darren Sproles. Or, I don’t know, at least someone who actually graduated from K-State.
In this week of basketball euphoria, K-State Sports Extra took a time out to envy the golf team for getting to play on the pristine links of Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California. I would envy them, too. Except all I can think about is basketball. Sorry, linksters!