MANHATTAN | Upon learning that his team had earned a No. 5 seed and would begin NCAA Tournament play on Thursday in Tucson, Ariz., against No. 12 seed Utah State, Kansas State coach Frank Martin smiled.
"They respected the fact that we played a strong schedule," Martin said of the tournament's selection committee. "They respected the fact that our kids played real well coming down the stretch and grew as a team."
Heading into Sunday's selection show, most experts had the Wildcats tabbed as a No. 6 or No. 7 seed. But their strong finish to the regular season landed them a more favorable spot in the tournament's Southeast Region. K-State will tip off against Utah State about 8:57 p.m. Thursday. The game will be televised on truTV.
If K-State defeats Utah State, it will face Wisconsin or Belmont in the second round. Should the Wildcats advance past the tournament's first weekend as they did a year ago, they could face top-seeded Pittsburgh or Butler in the Sweet 16. No. 2 seed Florida and No. 3 seed BYU highlight the other half of the bracket.
Getting that far could be difficult, though. Utah State, which went 30-3 and won both the WAC regular season and tournament championships, heads into the postseason ranked 23rd nationally.
"Any team that can win (30) games in a season is real good," Martin said.