Scouting the Cats from Kansas State


Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells at the court during the game against Tennessee in the SEC tournament championship on Sunday, March 11, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 77-72. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

As the dust settles on a Second Round filled with upsets, five-seed UK looks to survive in the Sweet 16 against the nine-seed Kansas State Wildcats.

A rare matchup in the tournament, nine-seeds have battled against five-seeds in tournament only three times. History is on KSU’s side: nine-seeds are 2-1 against five-seeds.

Kansas State advanced to the Sweet 16 after knocking off the historic UMBC Retrievers. Two days before that, KSU had an upset of its own after knocking off the eight-seeded Creighton Blue Jays.

With a healthy starting lineup and a coach who is very familiar with big tournament games, the Wildcats of Kansas will look to upset UK on Thursday night in Atlanta. Tipoff is at 9:37 p.m. on CBS.

Head Coach: Bruce Weber (sixth season at Kansas State)

Weber has been a college basketball head coach for 20 seasons now. His most notable tenure as a head coach came with the Illinois Fighting Illini from 2003 to 2012. During that span, he won Naismith College Coach of the Year in 2005 and led Illinois to a national runner-up title that same year.

When Weber led his Wildcats to the tournament in 2014, they faced an eventual national runner-up Kentucky team that defeated KSU in the first round. This year’s Sweet Sixteen is the farthest KSU has gone in the tournament in its four tournament appearances under Weber.

Record: 24-11 (10-8 in the Big 12), fourth overall in the Big 12

Likely Starters:

Barry Brown Jr.: Junior, G, 6-3, 16.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 3.3 APG

Cartier Diarra: Freshman, G, 6-4, 7.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG and 2 APG

Makol Mawien: Freshman, F, 6-9, 7.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 0.3 APG

Xavier Sneed: Sophomore, F, 6-5, 10.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 1.8 APG

Dean Wade: Junior, F, 6-8, 16.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 2.8 APG

Dean Wade’s return

One of the biggest players UK will focus on is Wade. After sitting out of Kansas State’s last three games, Wade said he is “98 percent sure” he will play in the Sweet 16. Wade suffered a left foot fracture during a Big 12 tournament game on March 8.

With 16.5 points per game, Wade is KSU’s leading scorer this season. The first-team All-Big 12 selection is also KSU’s leading rebounder with 6.3 rebounds per game.

Kansas State’s efficient defense

During the regular season, KSU ranked 38th nationally in opponent points per game with 66.9 points per game. In the team’s first two games in the tournament, KSU held opponents to 51 points per game.

KSU’s tournament opponents also averaged a 31.8 percent field-goal percentage.

The Wildcats have shown they can strip the ball away from opponents. Their 7.9 steals per game is 14th in the nation and highest in the Big 12. Junior guard Barry Brown leads the Wildcats in total steals this season with 64.

Those steals have given the Wildcats a turnover margin of +2.7, which falls in the top 50 in the country and is the second best in the Big 12, just behind West Virginia.

A healthy lineup

In addition to Wade, the Wildcats’ other key players are healthy. This was an issue for Kansas State this season.

Brown and guard Kamu Stokes struggled with injuries earlier this season. Stokes missed seven games back in January due to a foot fracture. Brown sat out during most of the Big 12 semifinal loss to Kansas.

With their top two scorers in Brown and Wade, the Wildcats should have some momentum on offense. Stokes provides more valuable veteran experience for a team that is much older than its opponents.