Kansas State University

How K-State players are using a week off to their advantage before NCAA Tournament

Barry Brown talks about his excitement level for March Madness

Kansas State guard Barry Brown talks about his excitement level for March Madness
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Kansas State guard Barry Brown talks about his excitement level for March Madness

Barry Brown is the type of basketball player who makes his way into the gym multiple times a day, even when Kansas State coaches instruct him to go home and get some rest. So it came as a surprise when he took nearly 48 hours off following the Big 12 Tournament late last week.

When Bruce Weber told him to spend two days playing video games or watching his favorite Netflix shows, instead of taking 1,000 shots at the team’s practice facility, Brown (for once) took his coach up on the offer.

“He told everybody he is taking a couple days off,” Weber said, “here to get refreshed and re-energized for his last go around.”

Brown was able to kick back and relax because K-State is getting a full week off between its last game in the Big 12 Tournament and its first game in the NCAA Tournament, against the Anteaters at 1 p.m. Central time Friday at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. That could be a blessing for the Wildcats, who looked like a tired and dinged up group in Kansas City.

Winning their first Big 12 championship since 2013 took a lot out of key contributors like Kamau Stokes, Xavier Sneed and Brown, a senior guard. And it showed.

Sneed, a junior swingman, looked exhausted every time he came out of Big 12 Tournament games. But he’s dealing with more than fatigue. Weber has said Sneed is “boogered up” and could use two weeks of rest before playing in his next game. He hopes one week will do the trick.

Stokes, a senior point guard, has been playing through an injured toe while also dealing with migraines.

Then there’s Brown, who could use a recharge after logging a team-high 35.2 minutes per game this season. Perhaps that heavy workload explains why he hasn’t had a huge statistical game in nearly a month.

“I am trying to get right mentally and physically to get ready for what is coming up,” Brown said. “UC Irvine is going to have my full, undivided attention.”

Add all those things together, and it’s easy to see why the Wildcats were hoping for a Friday game in the NCAA Tournament.

The only K-State player going full throttle right now is Cartier Diarra, who is working to get in top physical shape after coming back from an eight-game absence because of a broken finger on his shooting hand.

“For Barry, it is a good thing,” Weber said. “This is huge for him. He works so hard. This is hurt and that is hurt. We were sitting at breakfast the other day and we just said, ‘Come back and get treatment and go chill. Play your video games and whatever you do. Same thing the next day, then (Tuesday) just shoot.’ Hopefully it is good for him.”

K-State will need all hands on deck without star forward Dean Wade, who is doubtful to play in the NCAA Tournament because of a right foot injury.

The Wildcats made it to the Elite Eight mostly without Wade last season, but everyone upped their game to make it happen. Mike McGuirl had his best game in a K-State uniform in the first round against Creighton, Sneed looked like a future NBA player against Kentucky and Brown put the team on his back throughout March.

“Kam and Barry really want to do well, but the key is how much we get out of everybody,” Weber said. “In this first game, (UC Irvine) they are big. So our big guys who haven’t played a lot, they might have an opportunity to play. Every little play makes a big difference.”

Brown’s successful four-year career with the Wildcats was built on relentless work. So much so that K-State coaches have urged him to dial back his practice routine at times.

He hopes a brief change in that approach will help him find his top form when he gets back into his grinding routine. It will happen soon enough. K-State departed for San Jose a day earlier than most teams in the NCAA Tournament and checked in at the team hotel Tuesday afternoon.

The Wildcats will have three days to prepare for their first-round game in California.

They will be as refreshed as possible when they take the court.

“It’s getting closer and closer so you have to get ready mentally and physically,” Brown said. “I feel good about my shot. I feel good about everything that goes into winning games.”

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