NCAA Tournament

K-State rewarded with return trip to Sprint Center for NCAA Tournament

Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber was hoping for two things from the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

A return trip to the Sprint Center and an extra day of rest.

He got them both. The Wildcats head into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed in the West Region and will take on either Boise State or La Salle around 2:10 p.m. Friday at the Sprint Center. The game will air on truTV. With a victory, K-State will play No. 5 Wisconsin or No. 12 Mississippi in the round of 32 with a trip to Los Angeles for the Sweet 16 on the line.

“You can’t be more pleased to be in Kansas City,” Weber said. “The other thing on my wish list was to play Friday. It just gives you another day to get treatment and relax. That was a tough time to play three nights in a row. We were tested every game and it took a toll on our guys.”

K-State’s next challenge will be scouting two teams instead of one. No. 13 seeds Boise State and La Salle will play a first-round game Wednesday, giving the Wildcats a unique opportunity to watch their next opponent play a NCAA Tournament game before facing them in the round of 64. But unlike most teams in the field of 68, the Wildcats will have to prepare for two teams until that game is over.

Weber said every member of his staff will help with the scouting process — only three assistants scout opponents during the regular season — and some will attend the First Four if the NCAA allows them.

“I’ve never done this before,” Weber said. “Boise State is a strong bubble team and they got in. La Salle, they are talented. That whole league (the Atlantic 10) is talented we just have to worry about winning Friday and see what happens next.”

The Wildcats watched the selection show Sunday as a team at Colbert Hills Golf Club, and everyone applauded when K-State’s seeding was announced. After reaching the Big 12 tournament championship game Saturday evening, they thought they had done enough to earn a top four-seed and a spot at Sprint. K-State hasn’t played a NCAA Tournament game in Kansas City since the 1964 Final Four at Municipal Auditorium.

They were pleased to be rewarded for a successful season.

“It’s a good chance for our fans to go watch us one more time,” sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez said. “They will help us feel like we are home. Hopefully a lot of fans show up.”

“We have a whole week to rest and get our legs back,” added junior guard Will Spradling. “That’s what I wanted. Add Kansas City in there and we got exactly what we wanted.”

K-State players also said they were excited about the possibility of playing Wisconsin in the round of 32. The Badgers have been a nemesis to the Wildcats in recent NCAA Tournaments. They prevented K-State from reaching the Sweet 16 in 2008, winning 72-55 in Omaha, Neb., and 2011, winning 70-65 in Tucson, Ariz.

Weber’s experience against Wisconsin when he coached at Illinois will add a new twist to the rivalry. Weber went 9-12 against the Badgers with the Illini. But the majority of K-State’s roster played against Wisconsin two years ago. They remember the disappointment that followed.

“We lost to them my sophomore year,” senior wing Rodney McGruder said. “That was the team that ended one of my good friend’s career, Jacob (Pullen), and they also ended Clent Stewart’s career and Michael Beasley’s. A lot of my fellow friends have a bad taste in their mouth about Wisconsin and I do, too. I look forward to that game.”

The Wildcats were in much higher spirits Sunday than they were on Saturday following a 70-54 loss to Kansas. That was to be expected with the excitement of the NCAA Tournament and a new beginning taking over.

But the healing process started ahead of schedule.

“After the game, Shane (Southwell) said, ‘What happened the last time we lost to Kansas?’” Weber said. “I said, ‘I think we won six in a row.’ That would be nice if we could do that again. But, for now, I just want to win one in a row and see if we can advance.”

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