Analyzing the good and bad of Kansas State’s draw in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament:
THE GOOD: K-State will open the NCAA Tournament inside the friendly confines of Sprint Center against one of the worst at-large teams in the NCAA Tournament. Regardless of who wins between La Salle and Boise State, the Wildcats will have a big crowd advantage and be favored. Both teams like to push the issue on offense and are capable of scoring in the 80s, but they might not be at full strength after playing an intense game on Wednesday. The Wildcats should be at full strength after six days off. Plus, K-State players will get to watch La Salle and Boise State play this week and learn from the game while their opponents will only get one day to prepare for the Wildcats.
THE BAD: The Wildcats are one of four teams that don’t know who they will play in their first NCAA Tournament game. That makes the scouting process more difficult than usual. K-State coaches won’t be able to lock in on La Salle or Boise State until Thursday. La Salle or Boise State will have momentum on its side when it reaches Kansas City. Sometimes a victory in the play-in game can help a team relax and lead to success in the next round. Both La Salle and Boise State have proven they are capable of beating NCAA Tournament teams.
Round of 32
THE GOOD: K-State will once again benefit from a crowd advantage if it wins its first game, and that could certainly help against Mississippi or Wisconsin. If the Wildcats face Ole Miss, you’ve got to think K-State has a big advantage. Last week, the Rebels thought they were headed to the NIT. They might be content with simply winning a game in the NCAA Tournament and not have much left with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Ole Miss is also very inconsistent. If K-State plays Wisconsin, it might not take many points to win. That could be a good thing for the Wildcats, who are their best when they play tough defense and win by scoring between 65-75 points. K-State has also lost to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament in two of the past five years. Maybe the third time is the charm. Bruce Weber also has lots of experience playing Wisconsin from his coaching days at Illinois.
THE BAD: Marshall Henderson is a crazy guy, but he’s also crazy good at basketball. When he gets going, he can win games seemingly all by himself. If Ole Miss beats Wisconsin and he gets hot early against K-State, he could make enough shots to get the Rebels to the Sweet 16. If Wisconsin beats Ole Miss on Friday, we are in for K-State’s traditional third-round game. The Badgers smashed the Wildcats in 2008 when Michael Beasley was a freshman and outlasted K-State in 2011 despite Jacob Pullen scoring 38 points. Weber is 9-12 against Wisconsin, and the Badgers have size and toughness that at times has given K-State trouble this season. I also wonder what kind of crowd advantage the Wildcats will have. Sure, Kansas City is close to Manhattan, but K-State fans might have to share the arena with Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin. All four teams will bring fans. Will anyone have a big crowd advantage?
THE GOOD: If K-State advances this far, it could get another shot at top-ranked Gonzaga. The Bulldogs beat up the Wildcats in Decemeber, but K-State players will be motivated for a rematch. Other possible opponents — Pittsburgh, Wichita State, Southern — are beatable. A trip to the Sweet 16 would make Bruce Weber’s first year at K-State even more impressive.
THE BAD: Gonzaga humiliated K-State when they played in Seattle, pulling away after a close first half to win 68-52. The Wildcats had no answer for Kelly Olynyk or Elias Harris inside. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 for a reason. They are good.
THE GOOD: K-State would likely match up well with the top teams on the other side of the West region. Weber knows everything about Ohio State. New Mexico doesn’t have huge size to bother K-State inside. Arizona has been up and down all year. If the Wildcats advance this far, they will likely see tougher challenges in the early rounds.
THE BAD: No bad can come of K-State playing on this stage.