Kansas State Prepares For Friday La Salle Matchup

By  | 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas State and La Salle are in many ways mirror images of each other.

The fourth-seed in the West Region, Kansas State (27-7) dumped a two-post lineup for one featuring four guards early in the season, and the results have been astounding.

The Wildcats earned a share of their first Big 12 title in 36 years. Now, they'll be going against another four-guard lineup from La Salle (21-9), which likes to pester teams on the perimeter and has shown a propensity for popping the 3-pointer.

The No. 13 seed Explorers will be playing Friday, just two days after beating Boise State in a ``First Four'' game in Dayton, Ohio.

Kansas State (27-7, 14-4 Big 12) vs. La Salle (22-9, 11-5 Atlantic 10)
NCAA West Regional Second Round * Friday, March 22, 2013
2:10 p.m. CT * Kansas City, Mo. * Sprint Center (18,972)

Television: TruTV
Marv Albert (play-by-play); Steve Kerr (analyst);
Craig Sager (sideline reporter); Scott Cockerill (producer)

National Radio: Dial Global Radio Network
Kevin Calabro (play-by-play); Will Perdue (analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 94/XM 192

Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play); Stan Weber (analyst)

Live Stats: http://www.kstatesports.com/multimedia/ksu-gt-live-stats.html
Live Audio: http://www.k-statesports.com/allaccess (free)
Twitter Updates: twitter.com/kstate_gameday

K-State at NCAA Championship: 33-30 (6-3 in 2nd round)
K-State vs. La Salle: 3-0

Big 12 co-champion and No. 12/14 Kansas State (27-7, 14-4 Big 12) was rewarded for its successful 2012-13 season on Sunday, as the Wildcats earned their 27th NCAA Tournament appearance, including its fifth in the last six seasons, by receiving an at-large bid to the tournament. It is the school’s record seventh consecutive postseason appearance (5 NCAAs and 2 NITs) and just the second time in history that it has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons (also done from 1986-90). The Wildcats were selected as a No. 4 seed in the West Regional and will travel to Kansas City, Mo., to play 13-seed La Salle (22-9), an 80-71 winner over Boise State, on Friday, March 22 at the Sprint Center (18,972). Friday’s second-round game will tip at 2:10 p.m. CT and will be broadcast nationally on TruTV (as well as NCAA.com) with Marv Albert (play-by-play), Steve Kerr (analyst) and Craig Sager (sideline reporter) on the call. K-State will be playing in an NCAA Tournament game in Kansas City for the ninth time in its history, which includes Final Four appearances in 1948, 1951 and 1964. It will be the first NCAA Tournament game in the city since playing in the Final Four against UCLA and Michigan at Municipal Auditorium on March 20-21, 1964. Overall, K-State is 10-7 in the Sprint Center, including a 67-61 win over No. 8 Florida on Dec. 22, 2012 and three games at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship last week. The Wildcats are joined at the venue by No. 1 seed Kansas, No. 8 seed North Carolina, No. 9 Villanova and No. 16 seed Western Kentucky of the South Regional. The top seeds in the West Regional are No. 1 seed Gonzaga (31-2), No. 2 seed Ohio State (26-7) and No. 3 New Mexico (29-5).

K-State is 33-30 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including a 6-3 mark in second-round games. In the school’s previous 26 NCAA Tournament appearances, the Wildcats have advanced to the Sweet 16 a total of 16 times. The program has also reached the Elite Eight 11 times, made four Final Four appearances (1948, 1951, 1958, 1964) and played in one National Championship game (1951). The school will be making its sixth appearance in the West Regional with its previous trips coming in 1948, 1951, 1981, 1987 and 2010 and is 11-7 all-time in the region. The Wildcats will be making its second appearance as a No. 4 seed and the first since making a run to the Elite Eight in 1988. The 4-seed ties for the second-highest in school history (with the 1988 squad) and is the highest since appearing as a No. 2 seed in 2010. Overall, the school is 3-1 as a No. 4 seed. Last season, K-State went 1-1 in the NCAA East Regional at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa., knocking off No. 9 seed Southern Miss, 70-64, in the second round before losing to top-seed Syracuse, 75-59, in the third round. K-State has a 6-4 mark in its last four NCAA appearances.

K-State has a long and storied history of playing games in Kansas City,which dates back over 85 years to a 45-26 loss to the Kansas City Athletic Club on Feb. 23, 1926. A holiday tournament was started in 1943 with several area teams and it eventually evolved into the annual Big Six/Seven/Eight Holiday Tournament at Municipal Auditorium. The Big Eight played a holiday tournament as well as its postseason tournament in the city for three seasons, starting in 1976-77, before playing just a postseason classic in 1979-80. The Wildcats played at least one game in Kansas City in the Big Eight/12 Tournament for 26 seasons (1976-2002) until it moved to Dallas in 2003. The Big 12 moved the championship back to the city in 2005 and then again to the Sprint Center in 2007, where it has been contested five times in the last six years. Some of K-State’s greatest moments on the basketball court have come in Kansas City with three of the school’s four Final Four appearances (1948, 1951, 1964) and seven holiday tournament titles (1947, 1950, 1952, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963) being contested at Municipal Auditorium to go with two postseason Big Eight crowns (1977, 1980) at Kemper Arena. Overall, the Wildcats have played 185 games in the city with a 108-77 (.584) record.

K-State enters the NCAA Tournament with wins in 12 of its last 15 games, including a run to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship game last week at the Sprint Center. The Wildcats captured their first conference title in 36 seasons (and 18th overall) with a 14-4 mark in Big 12 play, the school’s first since winning the Big Eight crown in 1977. The team enters Friday’s tournament games with the second-most wins in school history and just its fifth 25-win season to go with a school-record tying 14 conference wins. It marks the seventh consecutive 20-win season in school history, while it represents the sixth time in the last seven seasons that the squad has posted at least 10 conference wins (only Kansas has done that in each of the last four seasons).

--Kansas State’s 27 wins are the second-most in a single-season in school history with only the 2009-10 squad (29) posting more wins. The team posted a school-record 25 wins in the regular season, while its 27-7 start is the best after 34 games (surpassing the 2009-10 team which went 26-8). It is the 26th 20-win season in school history, including a school-record seventh consecutive 20-win season. The 14 wins in Big 12 play tied the 1958-59 team for the most in school history, while the team has now collected 10 or more wins in conference play six times in the last seven seasons. The school earned its first Big 12 championship in men’s basketball, which is the 20th overall title and the 18th captured in the regular season in its history dating back to the start of conference play in 1914. The other regular season titles came in 1917, 1919, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1977. The team won double-digit non-conference games for the seventh straight season, including its first regular-season Top 10 non-conference win (No. 8 Florida) since defeating No. 8 Minnesota in 1981.

--Bruce Weber’s 27 wins are the most by a first-year head coach in the school’s 109-year history, while he is just the fourth to win 20 games in his first year, joining Bob Huggins (23, 2006-07), Frank Martin (21, 2007-08) and Lon Kruger (20, 1986-87). He is the second first-year head coach to win a league title, joining Zora Clevenger (15-2, 1916-17), while his 14 Big 12 wins are also the most by first-year head coach. He is one of three coaches (Rick Barnes and Larry Eustachy) to win the league title in his first season, while his 27 wins are the third-most by first-year head coach in Big 12 history, trailing Iowa State’s Larry Eustachy (1999-2000) and Missouri’s Frank Haith (2011-12). Weber’s eight-game winning streak (Dec. 18, 2012-Jan. 19, 2013) was the second-longest by a first-year coach and the longest since Clevenger’s 1916-17 squad ended the year with 13 straight wins.

--K-State is enjoying an outstanding 2012-13 athletics season, as the Wildcats have one of the best records (38-9, .809) among BCS schools when combining its football and men’s basketball teams. The 38 wins are only surpassed by Louisville (40-7), while the school is one of eight (Louisville, Ohio State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Florida, MTSU and Louisiana Tech) with 35+ combined wins in football and men’s basketball. K-State is just the third school in Big 12 history (Oklahoma, 2004-05 and Texas, 2005-06) to win conference titles in both football and men’s basketball in the same year. The school is also just the second (Oklahoma State, 1996-97) in the Big 12 to collect league Coach of the Year honors in both football and men’s basketball in the same season.

--K-State has built a solid resume, as the Wildcats boast a No. 19 RPI in the NCAA rankings. Five of the team’s seven losses have been to teams (Gonzaga, Kansas and Michigan) ranked No. 1 in either the AP or the Coaches’ poll at some point this year, while the two other defeats (Iowa State and Oklahoma State) came on the road to teams with a combined home record of 31-3. The Wildcats are one of five Big 12 schools in the NCAA Tournament, including Kansas, OSU, Oklahoma and Iowa State.

--K-State received its first national ranking of the season on Dec. 24, appearing at No. 25 in the AP Top 25, and earned its highest ranking at No. 9 on March 4. The No. 9 ranking is the highest since checking in at No. 6 on Dec. 13, 2010. The Wildcats dropped one spot to No. 12 in the AP poll and two spots to No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches poll on Monday, which marked the 11th straight week that the team has been ranked in both polls. The school has a 256-96 (.727) all-time record as a ranked team.

--The three-man senior class of Jordan Henriquez, Martavious Irving and Rodney McGruder became the winningest class in school history on Feb. 25 vs. Texas Tech, earning its 97th victory. The trio currently boasts a 101-37 (.732) overall record during their careers, which is five more than the 2011-12 class (Victor Ojeleye and Jamar Samuels) for the most wins by a class. They are the fourth straight class to tally 90 or more wins in their career, while they are just the second class in school history (1989-90) to advance to the NCAA Tournament in four straight seasons. The three seniors will all finish in Top 10 of the career games played list at K-State, as McGruder (134) places second, Irving (129) fourth and Henriquez (125) sixth.

--Head coach Bruce Weber earned Big 12 Coach of the Year from the league coaches and The Associated Press, while Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez and Shane Southwell were named to the coaches’ all-conference team. McGruder was named to five-man All-Big 12 First Team and Rodriguez to the five-man All-Big 12 Second Team by both groups, while Southwell was named honorable mention by the coaches. It marked just the third time in school history that three players appeared on an all-conference team (1951 and 1999). McGruder became just the third Wildcat to earn first team honors in the Big 12 era, while Weber became the sixth K-State head coach to earn conference Coach of the Year honors and the second in the Big 12 era. He also collected league Coach of the Year accolades for the third time in his career in his third different league (MVC and Big Ten).

--18 of K-State’s 34 games were at home (including a home game vs. No. 8/9 Florida in Kansas City’s Sprint Center), where the Wildcats have won 18 of their last 19 home games, including 17 of 18 at Bramlage Coliseum. The Texas Tech win on Feb. 25 gave the school 300 victories in the arena’s 25-year history, while the win vs. TCU tied the 2008-09 and 2010-11 teams for the most wins (16) at Bramlage Coliseum and the 2010-11 squad for the highest home winning percentage (16-1, .941).

--K-State was 7-3 in road games this season, winning at George Washington, West Virginia, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor to go with losses at Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma State. The seven road wins this season tie the 2009-10 team for the most in the Big 12 era and the most since the 1987-88 squad won eight, while the six in league play also tie the 2009-10 team for the most in the Big 12 play. The Wildcats have improved their play on the road in the Big 12, posting a 30-27 record over the past seven seasons (which began in 2006-07) after winning just 10 of 80 road games in the league’s first 10 years (1997-2006).

--K-State has a combined 11-3 record in the months of February and March this season, which is the best record in the Big 12. Since the 2008-09 season, the Wildcats are a combined 47-20 (.702) in the two months, including 32-7 (.821) in February.

--K-State ranks in the Top 50 in seven categories, including 13th in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, 27th in offensive rebounds, 37th in scoring defense, 40th in turnover margin, 41st in scoring margin and 47th in turnovers per game. The team places first in the Big 12 in scoring defense, assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin, second in offensive rebounds and third in 3-point field goals and percentage. In Big 12-only games, the Wildcats ranked first in assists, field goal percentage, turnover margin, assist-to-turnover ratio and rebounding defense and second in scoring defense and 3-point field goals.

--K-State had a tremendous semester in the classroom, as the team had a cumulative 2.839 GPA (the highest in 12 years) during the Fall 2012 semester. A program-best eight players - Adrian Diaz, Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez, Brian Rohleder, Ryan Schultz, Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Nino Williams - were named to the Fall Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll on Jan. 9. McGruder (first team) and Spradling (second team) were selected to the Academic All-Big 12 Teams.

K-State has proven to be a balanced team across the board with eight players averaging four or more points, including just two in double figures, and five averaging three or more rebounds per game. Senior Rodney McGruder (15.7 ppg., 4th in Big 12) and sophomore Angel Rodriguez (11.7 ppg., 18th in Big 12) are the only Wildcats averaging in double figures, while three others - Shane Southwell (8.1 ppg.), Thomas Gipson (7.9 ppg.) and Will Spradling (7.5 ppg.) - are averaging better than seven points per contest. The team has seen 10 players collect 101 double-digit scoring games with McGruder (28) leading the way, while the squad has eight players with 50+ field goals made with McGruder’s 199 the most of any Big 12 player. K-State is the only Big 12 school to have eight players with 50+ made field goals and five players with 30+ 3-pointers, while Baylor is the only other league school with 10 players with double-digit scoring efforts. The squad is 24-2 this season when scoring 65 or more points in a game, including 15-1 when scoring more than 70. In all, the Wildcats have had six players lead or share the lead in scoring led by McGruder (18). McGruder also leads the team in rebounding at 5.4 per game, while Gipson (5.0 rpg.) and Jordan Henriquez (4.8 rpg.) also average better than four rebounds per game. The team has seen eight players either lead or share the lead in rebounding with Gipson and Henriquez leading the way in nine games and McGruder in eight games.

The Wildcats have also been diverse in other categories, including five players with 60+ assists and seven with 15+ steals. Rodriguez has dished out a team-best 169 assists (112 in Big 12 play) with six players either leading or sharing the lead in assists. Rodriguez also has a team-high 48 steals (33 in Big 12 play), while eight have either led or shared the lead in steals. Four players -- McGruder (33.3 mpg.), Rodriguez (27.9), Spradling (27.8) and Southwell (25.5) -- are averaging more than 20 minutes, while five others are averaging 10+ minutes. Eight players have at least one start with only McGruder starting all 34 games.

The switch to a four-guard lineup has proved to be a pivotal decision by Bruce Weber, as the Wildcats are averaging 68.6 points on 44.7 percent shooting, including 37 percent from 3-point range, since making the change 25 games ago. The squad has posted an 20-5 mark in that span, including victories over No. 8/9 Florida, No. 22/21 Oklahoma State (twice), Oklahoma (twice), Iowa State and Baylor (twice). Although the team scored 70.8 points in their first nine games, they are shooting nearly five percent higher from the field (44.7 from 40.8), four percent higher from 3-point range (37.3 from 33.3) and posting more 3-pointers (7.2 from 6.0), while dishing out more assists (16.2 from 15.6) and producing fewer turnovers (11.2 from 12.8) in the last 25 games. K-State has connected on better than 45 percent from the field in 13 of those games, including 50 percent or better on eight occasions, while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range in 12 games. Rodney McGruder is averaging four more points per game (17.1 from 11.9) on nearly 10 percent higher field goal percentage (47.0 from 37.8) in the last 25 games, while Shane Southwell has improved his average from 6.3 points in first nine to 8.6 points in the same span. McGruder (17.1 ppg.) and Rodriguez (12.0 ppg.) have combined to average 29.1 points since the change to four-guard lineup.

K-State found more of an offensive rhythm during Big 12 play, where the Wildcats led the league in field goal percentage (45.7), assists (16.9), turnover margin (+2.7) and assist-to-turnover radio (1.6) and were second in 3-point field goal percentage (38.9) and makes (7.8). The squad connected on 45 percent or better in 11 league games, including better than 50 percent against West Virginia (twice), Iowa State (twice), Texas Tech and TCU. The team shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in 10 league games with 9+ 3-point makes in seven contests, including a season-high 12 vs. TCU on March 5. Rodney McGruder ranked first in Big 12 games in minutes (34.9), sixth in scoring (16.1 ppg.), seventh in free throw percentage (76.1), ninth in field goal percentage (46.2), 10th in 3-point field goal percentage (36.0) and 11th in 3-point field goals (1.8). Angel Rodriguez was second in league-only contests in assists (6.2), third in free throw percentage (83.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5), 13th in 3-point field goal percentage (34.5) and 15th in scoring (12.3 ppg.) and 3-point field goals (1.6). Shane Southwell ranked in the Top 10 in both 3-point field goal percentage (44.0, 4th) and makes (1.8, 10th), while he was 14th in assists (2.6).

K-State has been solid protecting the ball, as the Wildcats rank first in the Big 12 in both assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4) and turnover margin (+2.7). The assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 13th nationally, while the turnover margin and turnovers per game rank 40th and 47th, respectively. Thus far, the team has produced a Big 12-low 11.6 turnovers per game, while forcing its foes into an average of 14.3 turnovers (ties for the third-most in the Big 12). The Wildcats have 14 or fewer miscues in 27 games, including a season-low six on three occasions, while they have forced their foes into 18+ turnovers seven times, including a season-high 26 by Lamar. The Wildcats’ 1.38 assist-to-turnover ratio is currently the best for a single season, ahead of the 1.28 posted by the 2004-05 team, while the 394 turnovers are the fifth-fewest for a season behind the 1983-84 (358), 2004-05 (360), 1985-86 (381) and 1989-90 (393) totals. The 545 assists tied the 2006-07 team for the most in a single season, while the 16.0 assists per game average ties for third. Angel Rodriguez’s 169 assists are the second-most in school history behind Steve Henson (186, 1987-88), while his 5.28 per game average places fifth and is the highest average since Larry Reid (5.32) in 2001-02.

Seven Wildcats have posted an even or positive assist-to-turnover ratio this season, including its four primary ball-handlers (Angel Rodriguez, Martavious Irving, Shane Southwell and Will Spradling) combining for 399 assists to 181 turnovers (2.2 ratio). The current ratio for the quartet is a solid improvement after posting a 1.4 ratio (302 assists to 211 turnovers) as a group in 2011-12. Rodriguez (2.3) ranks second in the Big 12 and 46th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, while Spradling’s team-best ratio (2.4) is outside the minimums to rank. Spradling, who has 80 assists to 33 turnovers, led the squad with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio a season ago, while Rodriguez has made a notable improvement (169 assists to 75 turnovers) in the area after posting a 1.2 ratio (101 assists to 85 turnovers) as a freshman. Irving has also drastically improved his ratio (2.0 from 1.5) with 68 assists to 34 turnovers, while Southwell has a solid 2.1 ratio (82 assists to 39 turnovers) after posting a 1.6 ratio last year. Rodriguez’s 2.25 assist-to-ratio ranks fifth on the school’s single-season chart and is the highest for a Wildcat since 1991-92.

K-State is averaging 18.1 personal fouls per game, including 19.8 per game in its 18 Big 12 games. Opponents have knocked down 430 free throws on 630 attempts, an average of 12.6 makes per game, with the Wildcats countering with 423 makes on 614 attempts for an average of 12.4 makes per game. The 18 Big 12 opponents combined to shoot 92 more free throws.

Kansas State has posted a 3-3 record in neutral site games in 2012-13, splitting games against Delaware (66-63) and Michigan (57-71) at the NIT Season Tip-Off event at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 21-23 to go with a 68-52 loss against Gonzaga at the Battle in Seattle at KeyArena on Dec. 15 and a 2-1 record at last week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at the Sprint Center. The Wildcats averaged 60.5 points on 37.3 percent shooting, including 31.9 percent from 3-point range, in these six games with senior Rodney McGruder (15.7 ppg.) and sophomore Angel Rodriguez (12.7 ppg.) averaging in double figures. The team is 3-1 in games played at the Sprint Center this season with wins against No. 8 Florida (67-61), Texas (66-49) and No. 14/15 Oklahoma State (68-57) to go with a 70-54 loss to No. 7/6 Kansas. K-State is averaging 63.8 points on 39 percent shooting, including 35.4 percent from 3-point range, while holding its opponents to 59.2 points on 38.4 percent shooting, including 30.1 percent beyond the arc, in four games at the Sprint Center in 2012-13. McGruder is averaging 20 points and 6.8 rebounds in these four contests.

First-year head coach Bruce Weber becomes the ninth different coach to lead Kansas State to an NCAA Tournament appearance, including the third first-year coach (Lon Kruger - 1986-87) and Frank Martin - 2007-08). Overall, Weber advances to his ninth NCAA Tournament as a head coach, which includes six at Illinois and two at Southern Illinois. He is the 41st head coach in NCAA history to take three different schools to the NCAA Tournament, including the 21st active head coach. He has an 11-8 overall record in the NCAA Tournament with three trips to the Sweet 16 (2002, 2004 and 2005) and an apperance in the 2005 Final Four. He also helped Purdue appear in 14 NCAA Tournaments during his 18-year tenure as an assistant coach to Gene Keady.

La Salle enters Friday's game with a 22-9 overall record, which includes a three-way tie with Butler and Temple for third place in the Atlantic 10 with an 11-5 mark. The Explorers have won eight of their last 11 games, including an 80-71 win over Boise State in the First Four match-up on Wednesday night in Dayton. The team went 13-2 at home, including wins over Villanova, Penn State, Butler and Massachusetts, while it has an impressive 69-61 win over VCU on the road. La Salle is averaging 72.4 points on 44.8 percent shooting, including 37.1 percent from 3-point range, while holding opponents to 66 points on 45.6 percent shooting, including 29.9 percent from beyond the arc. The squad averaging 7.6 3-pointers per game. The team has four players averaging in double figures led by senior Ramon Galloway (17.0 ppg.), who became just the third Explorer to be named first team All-Atlantic 10 and the first since 2006. The South Carolina transfer also paces the squad in 3-pointers (80), assists (3.8 apg.) and steals (2.0 spg.). The school is 42-22 since he arrived on campus in 2011. Junior Tyreek Duren earned second team honors from the Atlantic 10 after averaging 15.0 points to go with 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals in a team-best 34.3 minutes per game. Sophomore Jerrell Wright is the leader in rebounding (6.9 rpg.), while averaging 10.3 points on 55.1 percent shooting. The Explorers are led by one of the few head coaches with a Ph.D. in Division I basketball in Dr. John Giannini, who has a 140-137 record in his ninth season and a 437-286 record in 25th season (Rowan and Maine). The Explorers will be making their 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, including the first since 1992 and the first under Giannini.

K-State has met La Salle three times (1988, 1993, 1994), including a match-up in the 1988 Midwest Regional First Round in South Bend, Ind. The Wildcats are 3-0 vs. the Explorers, including a 66-53 win on March 17, 1988 in the NCAA Tournament. The school is 21-18 vs the Atlantic 10, including a 4-6 mark at neutral sites. K-State has faced four Atlantic 10 foes five times in the NCAA Tournament, including wins over La Salle (1988) and Xavier (2010) and losses to Temple (1958), Xavier (1990) and Butler (2010).

The winner of Friday’s second-round match-up will meet either 5-seed Wisconsin (23-11) or 12-seed Ole Miss (26-8) for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. The Badgers, who earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the 15th consecutive season, posted a 23-11 record and finished in a tie for fourth place in the rugged Big Ten under league Coach of the Year Bo Ryan. The Rebels won the SEC Tournament with a 26-8 record and are appearing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002.

K-State has faced Wisconsin on six previous occasions, including twice in the NCAA Tournament (2008 and 2011).  The Badgers lead the series, 4-2, knocking the Wildcats from the Big Dance twice. Head coach Bruce Weber has met Wisconsin 21 times in his career with 9-12 record. K-State and Ole Miss have met three times previously with the Rebels winning all three match-ups.

K-State has continued to be one of the nation’s best defensive teams, ranking 37th in scoring defense (60.4) and 40th in turnover margin (+2.7). In all, the Wildcats rank either first, second or third in five Big 12 defensive categories, including first in scoring defense, turnover margin and rebounding defense and third in rebounding margin. The squad ranks fourth in 3-point field goal percentage defense, fifth in steals, sixth in field goal percentage defense and blocked shots and seventh in rebounding.

The 2,052 points surrendered through 34 games are the fewest in the shot clock era (1985-86) and the fewest since the 1982-83 squad allowed just 1,635 points (58.4 ppg.) through its 28-game schedule. The current 60.4 points per game scoring average is the fifth-lowest since 1953 behind the 1981-82 (58.0),1982-83 (58.4), 1980-81 (59.4) and 1961-62 (59.8) squads. The Wildcats have held 23 opponents to 65 points or less, including 11 to 55 points or less, while 11 have been held under 40 percent shooting from the field and 10 to 25 percent or less shooting from 3-point range. The team’s defense was nearly historic in the 87-26 win over Alabama-Huntsville on Nov. 13, as the 26 points allowed were one shy of the Bramlage Coliseum record of 25 set against Savannah State on Jan. 7, 2008. The Chargers’ 16.4 field goal percentage was only surpassed by Savannah State’s 15.5 percentage.

A trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams were their ability to score points off of opponent’s mistakes and Bruce Weber has continued that legacy. The Wildcats are out-scoring their opponents, 564-398 (an average of 16.6 points per game), through 34 games in points off of turnovers. The squad has posted 10 or more points off of miscues in 29 of 34 games, including 20 or more points on 10 occasions, with a season-best 34 vs. Lamar on Nov. 12. The team out-scored its 18 Big 12 opponents, 314-215 (average of 17.4 points per game), in points off of turnovers, including 20+ points in wins over TCU (twice), Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Tech and a near season-best 33-point effort in a win over Texas on Jan. 30. They are 20-2 when scoring more points off of turnovers, while they are just 7-5 when being outscored in points off of turnovers. In contrast, the Wildcats are out-scoring their opponents, 486-306 (average of 18.0 points per game), in points off of turnovers in their 27 victories, while are being outscored 92-78 (an average of 11.1 points per game) in points off of turnovers in their seven losses.

K-State is forcing its opponents into 14.3 turnovers per game (ties for third-most in Big 12), including a season-high 26 by Lamar, while turning the ball a Big 12-low 11.6 times per game. The 1.38 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 13th and first in the Big 12 with Angel Rodriguez boasting the league’s second-best assist-to-turnover ratio. In Martin’s five seasons, the Wildcats averaged 18.2 points per game off of turnovers. Nearly 25 percent of the points scored from 2007-12 came off of offense generated from miscues. With 564 this season, the school has now scored 500 or more points off of opponent turnovers in seven straight seasons.

Although they have dropped games to No. 3/2 Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State by a combined 16 points this season, the Wildcats have been successful in close games, posting a 13-3 record in games decided by 10 points or less and a 7-3 mark in games decided by six points or less, including seven Big 12 wins. Angel Rodriguez, who knocked down the game-winning free throws in the last five seconds in the win at Oklahoma on Feb. 2 and was 6-of-6 in the last 2:24 in the win over Iowa State on Feb. 9, paces the team in free throws (35), attempted (38) and percentage (92.1) in the last five minutes of games. Will Spradling, who is also impressive from the line in clutch situations (21-of-27 in the last five minutes this season and 79-of-97 for his career), went a combined 10-of-10 from the line in the last 35 seconds in wins over Delaware, George Washington and Texas Southern. Rodney McGruder (24-of-28) and Shane Southwell (8-of-11) have all been solid from the line in the last five minutes of games. In the 65-64 win over West Virginia on Jan. 12, Southwell knocked down two free throws in the last 21 seconds and also blocked the game-winning shot with one second left. With the score tied at 50-all at Oklahoma on Feb. 2, Rodriguez knocked down a pair of game-winning free throws with 5.6 seconds left. McGruder hit the game-winning 3-pointer with one second left in a 64-61 win at Baylor on March 2, as the team is 5-1 in games decided by three points or less. It was the first buzzer-beating 3-pointer since Jarrett Hart’s trey against Gardner-Weber on Nov. 29, 2003 and the third game-winning 3-pointer since 1986.

Adding to the K-State’s balanced attack is the production from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 20.5 points, including a 698-560 edge over foes. The team has collected at least 20 points from its bench in 17 games, including a season-high 45 points vs. North Dakota on Nov. 9 and Texas on Jan. 30. Reserves have scored nearly half of the team’s points five times with Thomas Gipson posting the scoring lead vs. North Dakota (13), Delaware (12) and Texas (17), while Shane Southwell had a game-high 16 points vs. UAH and Nino Willams tallied a career-high 17 points vs. No. 22/21 Oklahoma State. The rebounding leader has come from the bench in 11 games with Gipson posting team-highs vs. Delaware (6), Texas (7), Iowa State (7) and Oklahoma State (6). Gipson has come off the bench in 14 of last 15 games, where he is averaging 9.3 points on 58 percent shooting with 4.5 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game off the bench. Ten of his 14 double-digit efforts have come from the bench, which include seven in Big 12 play. Before starting two games due to an injury to Will Spradling, Martavious Irving had also provided a lift from the bench, averaging 4.8 points on 37.5 percent shooting, 2.1 assists and 1.0 treys in 19.9 minutes per game.

Rebounding had been a source of strength earlier in the season, but became more of a concern during Big 12 play, where K-State ranked seventh in offensive rebounds (10.9) and rebounding margin (-0.1) and eighth in rebounding (30.9) and defensive rebounds (19.9). Since switching to a four-guard line-up 25 games ago, the team is averaging 32.6 rebounds, including 11.6 offensive rebounds, with opponents posting 31.3 rebounds, including 10.6 offensive rebounds. In the team’s first nine games, they averaged 42.6 rebounds, including 18.2 offensive rebounds, while its foes posted 34.1 rebounds, including 11.3 offensive rebounds. The Wildcats out-scored opponents, 153-99 (+54), in second chance points in these nine games, while they own a 275-265 (+10) edge in second chance points in the last 25 games, including a 19-4 edge vs. Texas Tech on Feb. 25. In its four league losses, K-State was out-rebounded by 35 (143-108) and allowed 32 more (54-22) second-chance points. In contrast, in its 14 league wins, the squad posted a +35 rebounding edge (449-414) and tallied 37 more (169-132) second-chance points.

K-State still boasts solid overall rebounding numbers, where it ranks second in offensive rebounds (13.4), third in rebounding margin (+3.2) and seventh in rebounding (35.3). Overall, the Wildcats have out-rebounded their opponents by a 1199-1090 margin, including 455-367 on the offensive end. The team is 20-0 this year when out-rebounding its opponent, but just 6-7 when it is out-rebounded. K-State has at least 10 offensive rebounds in 28 games with a season-high 29 vs. North Florida.

It’s unfortunate that a Texas-based school is not in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977, as the Wildcats posted an 11-0 mark against the Lone Star State (Baylor, Lamar, TCU, Texas, Texas Southern, Texas Tech) in 2012-13. The team won these 11 games by an average of 14.8 points, including a three-game sweep of Texas and home-and-home sweeps of league foes Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech. In its nine Big 12 wins over Texas schools, K-State won games by average of 12.1 points per game.

Head coach Bruce Weber earned Big 12 Coach of the Year honors, while Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez and Shane Southwell were named to the Coaches’ All-Conference team, as the league office announced its annual men’s basketball awards on Sunday. Weber was also tabbed the league Coach of the Year by The Associated Press, while McGruder (first team) and Rodriguez were selected to the AP’s All-Big 12 team. Rodriguez was also named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team by the league coaches.

McGruder was named to the coaches’ five-man All-Big 12 First Team and Rodriguez to the five-man All-Big 12 Second Team, while Southwell was one of nine players to earn honorable mention. It marked the first time in 14 years that K-State had three players on the all-conference team with four players earning honorable mention in 1999. Overall, only one other time (1951) in school history was there three Wildcats on an all-conference squad.

Weber is the sixth K-State coach to earn conference Coach of the Year honors and the second in the Big 12 era, following Tex Winter (1958, 1959, 1960), Cotton Fitzsimmons (1970), Jack Hartman (1975, 1977), Dana Altman (1993) and Frank Martin (2010). He also collects league Coach of the Year accolades for the third time in his career in his third different league after winning the honor in the Missouri Valley in 2002-03 and the Big Ten in 2004-05. With the honor, K-State becomes the second Big 12 school to have its football and men’s basketball coaches earn league Coach of the Year honors in the same season.

McGruder became just the third Wildcat player to earn All-Big 12 First Team honors since the inception of the league, joining Michael Beasley (2008) and Jacob Pullen (2010, 2011). The leader in six categories, including scoring (15.7 ppg.), double-digit scoring games (28), 20-point games (11), field goals (199) and minutes (33.3), McGruder also earned first team accolades from the Kansas City Star and ESPN.com. Overall, he earned all-conference accolades for the third time in his career after being named to the second team as a junior (2012) and third team as a sophomore (2011). He is just the seventh Wildcat in school history to earn all-conference honors three times, joining Frank Groves (1935-37), Jack Parr (1956-58), Bob Boozer (1957-59), Mike Evans (1976-78), Rolando Blackman (1979-81) and Pullen (2009-11).

Rodriguez, who ranks among the Big 12’s Top 5 in assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio, was named to the league’s second team for the first time in his career. He is averaging 11.7 points on 36.7 percent shooting, including 34.8 percent from 3-point range, to go with 5.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 27.9 minutes per game. He ranks second in the Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio, third in assists and free throw percentage and fifth in steals. He paces the Wildcats in 3-point field goals (55), free throws (88), assists (169), steals (48), while he is second in scoring, double-digit scoring games (23) and field goals (115). His 169 assists are the second-most in a single-season, trailing just Steve Henson (186, 1987-88), while his 5.28 assists per game average is fifth and the highest average since Larry Reid (5.32) in 2001-02. He was also named to the league’s All-Defensive Team for the first time in his career, marking the fourth straight season that the Wildcats have had at least player on the squad.

A Bronx, N.Y., native, Southwell earned all-conference honors for the first time in his career, as the junior was named honorable mention. The Wildcats’ best 3-point shooter is averaging 8.1 points on 44.1 percent shooting, including 42.1 percent from beyond the arc, to go with 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.0 steals in 25.5 minutes per game. He ranks second on the team in assists and steals, third in scoring, fourth in field goals (97) and 3-point field goals (45). He has registered double-digit scoring nine times this season, including a career-best 19 points against No. 3/2 Kansas on Jan. 22.

Senior Rodney McGruder (1,563 points & 648 rebounds) recently became just the second player in K-State history to rank in the Top 10 in both career scoring (7th) and rebounding (8th), joining two-time consensus All-American Bob Boozer, whose 824 rebounds rank fourth all-time and his 1,685 points rank fifth. He is just the eighth player to top 1,500 points in a career and one of just three players in school history with at least 1,500 points and 600 rebounds in a career, joining Rolando Blackman (1,844 points & 607 rebounds) and Bob Boozer (1,685 points & 824 rebounds). He became first Wildcat player in school history to collect 1,400 points, 600 rebounds, 150 assists and 100 steals in a career against West Virginia on Feb. 18. He will tie Jacob Pullen for the most games played with his 135 on Friday, while only Pullen and Steve Henson have played more minutes at K-State.

McGruder ranks in the Top 10 of 14 career categories, including consecutive games (134, 2nd), starts (101, 3rd), minutes played (3,668, 3rd), 3-point field goals (187, 4th), 3-point field goals attempted (489, 4th), double-digit scoring games (85, 5th), steals (114, 5th), starts (101, 5th), consecutive games (110, 6th), field goals (563, 6th), field goal attempts (1,240, 7th) and 3-point field goal percentage (38.2%, 8th). He ranks in the Top 20 in five Big 12 categories, including field goals (1st), scoring (4th), minutes (7th), steals (8th) and field goal percentage (13th). He finished sixth in scoring in Big 12-only games, while he was first in minutes, seventh in free throw percentage, eighth in steals, ninth in field goal percentage and 10th in 3-point field goal percentage. He has scored in double figures in 23 of the last 25 games (with 10 20-point games), including 13 straight games.

Senior Rodney McGruder was named one of 30 candidates for the 2013 Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award on Feb. 26 presented by AT&T and the Atlanta Tipoff Club. McGruder becomes third Wildcat to be selected as a Top 30 candidate for the Naismith Award, joining Michael Beasley (2008) and Jacob Pullen (2010). The candidates were selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors, which based its criteria on player performances to this point in the 2012-13 season. In late March, the Naismith Trophy voting academy will narrow down the list to four finalists. The Naismith Player of the Year will be awarded on April 7 in Atlanta. He is the team leader in six categories, including scoring (15.7 ppg.), double-digit scoring games (28), 20-point games (11), field goals (199) and minutes (33.3). Four times he has been named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week, winning the honor on Dec. 10 and 24, 2012 and Jan. 7 and 21. McGruder’s four Big 12 Player of the Week awards break his tie with Michael Beasley (three, 2007-08) for the most by a Wildcat in a single-season, while his five overall weekly awards (won first one as a junior) are the most-ever by a K-State player in the Big 12 era.

Junior Shane Southwell has made quite the jump in his productivity in year three, as he is averaging 8.1 points on 44.1 percent shooting, including a 42.1 percent from 3-point range, with 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 25.5 minutes per game with 25 starts in 32 games played. That production has been even more of factor during the team’s last 25 games (of which the team is 20-5), as he is averaging 8.6 points on 42.1 percent shooting, including 40.4 percent from 3-point range, with 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 28.3 minutes per game in 25 starts. He ranks second on the team in assists (69) and third in scoring, field goals (80), 3-point field goals (38), steals (30) and minutes during this stretch. Southwell had a huge game in the win against West Virginia on Jan. 12, as he knocked down two free throws in the last 21 seconds to give the Wildcats the lead then blocked the game-winning shot with just one second left. He first set his career-high for points (19) against No. 3/2 Kansas on Jan. 22 then matched it against Baylor on Feb. 16 on a career-best six 3-pointers. He has now posted double-digit points 12 times in his career (10 K-State wins), including nine times this season. He entered the 2012-13 campaign averaging just 2.5 points on 36.1 percent shooting with 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 14.8 minutes per game with 62 games played and 19 starts.

Sophomore Angel Rodriguez has made steady improvement from his freshman to his sophomore season, as he ranks first or second on the team in six categories, including first in assists (169) and steals (48) and second in scoring (11.7 ppg.) and double-figure scoring games (23). He has helped the Wildcats rank first in the Big 12 in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and turnover margin, while he places in the Top 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3, 2nd), assists (5.3, 3rd) and steals (1.5, 5th) and ranks second in conference-only assists (6.2) and steals (1.8) and third in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5) and free throw percentage (84.5). He has scored in double figures 23 times, including 20-point games vs. Iowa State (20), Baylor (22) and TCU (21), to go with game-highs vs. Lamar (19), George Washington (17) and Gonzaga (14). He tallied his first career double-double in Feb. 16 win over Baylor with career-bests in points (22) and assists (10), while he recorded his second one in the home finale vs. TCU on March 5 with 21 points and career-tying 10 assists. In Big 12 play, he averaged 12.3 points, 6.2 assists and 1.8 steals in 30.4 minutes per game. He earned Phillips 66 Big 12 co-Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career on Feb. 18 after averaging 19.5 points, 8.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in helping K-State split games with Kansas and Baylor. His 169 assists are the second-most in a single-season, trailing just Steve Henson (186, 1987-88), while his 5.28 assists per game average is fifth and the highest since Larry Reid (5.32) in 2001-02. His 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks fifth in a single-season.

Junior Will Spradling has been a model of consistency from the free throw line, knocking down 51-of-59 opportunities, including going 10-of-10 in the last 35 seconds in wins over Delaware, George Washington and Texas Southern. His effort has raised his career free throw percentage to 83.4 (176-of-211), which is the second-highest in school history behind Steve Henson (90.0; 361-of-401; 1986-90). Spradling has not only been stellar on the free throw line, but he ranks first on the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6). He also ranks third in 3-point field goals (47) and assists (80) and fifth in scoring (7.5 ppg.) and double-digit scoring games (12), while he matched his career-high with 19 points vs. West Virginia on Feb. 18. Since going scoreless vs. Kansas on Jan. 22, he has posted double-digit efforts at Iowa State (15), Oklahoma (12), Kansas (10) and West Virginia (19).

Sophomore Thomas Gipson has become a big presence in the paint in the last 15 games, as he is averaging 9.3 points on 58.0 percent shooting with 4.5 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. His scoring and rebounding averages as well as his field goal total (58) rank third on the team in that span behind Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez. He has scored in double figures in seven of the 14 games, including a game-high 20 points vs. Texas Tech on Feb. 25 to go with a team-high eight rebounds in 28 minutes. Gipson, who had come off the bench in eight straight games before earning the start, posted his individual high in a Big 12 game vs. the Red Raiders, eclipsing his 17 points vs. Texas on Jan. 30. He was also a big contributor off the bench in the loss at Oklahoma State on March 9, posting 15 points and a team-high six rebounds in 29 minutes. For the season, Gipson is tops in field goal percentage (52.0), second in rebounding (5.0 rpg.) and third in field goals (103) and double-digit scoring games (14). Eight of his 14 double-digit scoring efforts have come in the last 15 games. Before the start of his current 15-game streak, he was averaging 4.7 points on 45.5 percent shooting and 2.8 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game in Big 12 play.

Senior Martavious Irving has provided a scoring lift from the bench of late, posting double figures in three consecutive games (Feb. 2-9) to go with an 11-point effort at Baylor. He scored 10 points in the two road wins at Oklahoma and Texas Tech to go with another 10 vs. Iowa State on Feb. 9. In the last 15 games, he is averaging 6.5 points on 38.6 percent shooting, including a team-best 44.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc with 21 3-pointers, in 23.1 minutes per game. He started the last two regular season games for the injured Will Spradling, averaging 11.5 points on 43 percent shooting with 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals in 30.5 minutes per game. He scored a season-high 15 points in the win over TCU on Senior Night on March 5 on 4-of-9 field goals, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, with five assists in 36 minutes. Although his numbers weren’t high enough for Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year mention in 2013, he has still been one of the major factors for the team’s success with averages of 5.2 points, 2.1 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game. He is one of five players with 35+ 3-pointers.

After playing in just 15 games his first season (including a medical redshirt in 2010-11), sophomore Nino Williams has emerged as an impact player for K-State. He has played in 33 of 34 games with 11 starts, averaging 4.3 points on 46.5 percent shooting with 3.4 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game. He had career week in wins vs. South Dakota and No. 22/21 Oklahoma State in January, in which, he averaged 16.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game. With the emergence of Shane Southwell in the four-guard offense, Williams playing time has diminished, where he is averaging 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game. However, he has come through in a big way in recent wins over West Virginia (Feb. 18) and Texas Tech (Feb. 25) . He scored 13 points against the Mountaineers on 6-of-8 field goals with five rebounds in 23 minutes before scoring 11 points against the Red Raiders on 5-of-8 field goals and seven rebounds. He scored all 11 of his points against Texas Tech in a near four-minute span in the second half, in which, the Wildcats went from being down two points to taking a six-point lead.

The winner of Friday’s game will play either 5-seed Wisconsin (23-11) or 12-seed Ole Miss (26-8) on Sunday, March 24.