It’s Tournament Talk Tuesday, and the women get center stage. Jeff Mittie’s club qualified for the NCAA bracket for the third time in the past four years, drawing a ninth seed in the Albany Regional. K-State (21-11, 11-7 Big 12) will play Michigan (21-11, 11-7 Big 10) on Friday at 1 p.m. CDT at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Sharp-eyed fans will recognize that, unfortunately, the ladies will be tipping off at the exact same time as the men. The winner between the Big 12 and Big 10 foes will likely face the host school, No. 1 seed Louisville, in the round of 32.
A SNAFU at ESPN caused the women’s bracket to be released early yesterday. Coach Mittie caught word of the mistake near the end of his squad’s practice session, so he confiscated the team’s phones and sent them to the video room for an early “watch” party. The staff interjected a little intrigue by telling the players there was “weird news” for them to discuss. The unplanned reveal was, in some ways, fitting for this squad, whose season rebounded through a surprising six conference road wins, against only five at home. As Mittie quipped, “We didn’t plan a lot of things this year.”
The Wildcats were predicted to be a 10-seed in many projections, but the late-season turnaround left little doubt they would be in the field. Though the higher seed is a welcome pat on the back, as Jon Morse points out, it means a second round game would come against the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals. A 10-seed might not have been such a boon, either. The No. 2 in the Albany Bracket? Perennial powerhouse, UConn.
On the men’s side of the ledger, the Friday tip-off gives the team a welcome extra day of rest and recovery before beginning its tournament journey. Coach Weber gave his team Saturday and Sunday off to recuperate, as seemingly everyone is nursing some sort of malady. Dean Wade’s foot is the most prominent of the injuries, and he was scheduled for a doctor visit yesterday. But so far, no news has emerged.
With doubt about Wade’s status (and doubt in general about a team that struggles to score points, despite winning its league), the Wildcats have become a popular target of upset alert prognostications. But the opinions on Weber’s team are decidedly mixed, overall. Pete Grathoff at the Star ran down what some of the media are saying about the ‘Cats ahead of the Big Dance.
At least one writer isn’t buying the downtrodden K-State theme. Scott Gleeson at USA Today names them among his five “sleepers” who could play their way into the Final Four. Sort of weird to pick five teams for a four-team field, but we’ll take the respect, somewhat back-handed though it may be. He may be on to something. After last year’s surprise run to the Elite 8, the Wildcats are hungry for more.
The fist round game against the University of California-Irvine is a rematch, of sorts. K-State handled them at home last season, 71-49, but the big, defense-minded Anteaters have 30 wins this year, and all of Barry Brown’s attention and respect.
In the only non-hoops order of business, the K-State baseball squad will wrap a 10-game homestand with two games against Canisius at Tointon Family Stadium. K-State (10-9) has won four of its last five games, while the Golden Griffins enter with a 4-14 record. The first game is today at 2 p.m., and the finale will be Wednesday at 3 p.m. You can watch the games on ESPN3 with Brian Smoller and Craig Wilson on the call, or listen to Matt Walters and John Kurtz on KMAN or at K-StateSports.com/watch.