GAME NOTES: The final second-round Midwest Region contest in the NCAA Tournament will pit the ninth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats against the eighth- seeded Kentucky Wildcats at Scottrade Center on Friday night.
The winner of this game will face either top-seeded Wichita State or 16th- seeded Cal Poly in the third round Sunday.
Kansas State used a 10-game win streak early in the season to propel itself forward, and made the tournament as a nine seed even though the team has dropped three straight. The Wildcats lost their first game in the Big 12 Tournament to Iowa State, 91-85.
Kentucky started the season as the preseason's top-ranked team in the nation, but faltered at certain points in the season. The Wildcats performed well in the SEC Tournament though, and made it the championship game against Florida, which they lost, 61-60.
Kentucky has dominated the all-time series with Kansas State, winning all eight games.
Iowa State slowly but surely took care of Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals, as the Cyclones led by just three points at the end of the first half, but piled another three onto that lead in the second frame. Kansas State, with a typically strong defense, allowed the Cyclones to hi an even 50 percent of their shots from the floor in the loss. Marcus Foster paced the Wildcats in the game with 21 points, and Shane Southwell scored 19 points with seven rebounds. Nigel Johnson chipped in 17 points off the bench, and Thomas Gipson rounded out the double-digit scorers with 13 points for Kansas State.
Foster and Gipson have lifted the Wildcats offensively this season, as Foster tops the team with a 15.6 ppg average. Gipson is the only other Kansas State player to average a double-digit scoring average at 11.8 ppg. The Wildcats' scoring defense has been the pride of the team this season, as KSU gives up just 65.7 ppg to opponents. Gipson leads the Wildcats in rebounding at 6.5 boards per outing, and Will Spradling is the team's leading assists man with a total of 94 on the year.
Kentucky used a furious second-half run to play catch-up with the top-ranked Florida Gators in the SEC championship game, but the Wildcats failed to get a shot off on the final possession before the clock ran out, and Kentucky was left looking at a one-point loss. Aaron Harrison was the leading scorer for Kentucky in the game, netting 16 points, while James Young chipped in 13 points against the Gators. Both Andrew Harrison and Willie Cauley-Stein netted 10 points for the Wildcats, and Cauley-Stein added 11 rebounds for the double- double.
Star freshman forward Julius Randle scored just four points against Florida in the title game, which slightly dropped his team-leading scoring average down to an even 15 ppg. Randle also leads the team with a 10.5 rpg, and has recorded 27 blocked shots on the year. That's not even close to Cauley-Stein's incredible 101 blocked shots. Young chips in a second-best 14.5 ppg for Kentucky, Aaron Harrison averages 13.8 ppg, and Andrew Harrison scores 10.8 ppg for the Wildcats. As a team, Kentucky is scoring 75.9 ppg and giving up just 66.6 ppg to opponents.
This is certainly one of, if not the most anticipated 8-9 matchups in the tournament. Kansas State's strong defense against Kentucky's powerful offense promises to provide a great show. The lack of success for Kansas State entering the tournament is a bit concerning, and it seems Kentucky has found a rhythm after the SEC Tournament.
Game Date and Time