Kansas State’s late-season surge continued in Dayton.
The Wildcats defeated fellow 11-seed Wake Forest, 95-88, on Tuesday evening in the teams’ First Four matchup. Kansas State will now ship off to Sacramento, where sixth-seeded Cincinnati awaits them in the South region.
Questions about and calls for Kansas State coach Bruce Weber’s job reached a zenith last month when his Wildcats were absolutely throttled by Oklahoma, which would ultimately finish ninth in the Big 12, for their fifth loss in sixth games. The style and the substance both seemed to be fading fast in what looked increasingly like his potential swan song in Manhattan.
Since then, Kansas State beat TCU on the road, Texas Tech at home and Baylor on a neutral floor. The Wildcats were then 2 minutes away from knocking off No. 11 West Virginia and earning a berth into the Big 12 tournament final.
Now, Weber’s got an NCAA tournament win with the Wildcats to his name.
Sure, it came on the technicality of the First Four, but, hey, still counts.
Kansas State’s offense was scintillating, shooting 66 percent from the field and 37,5 percent from deep. Wesley Iwundu flashed every bit of his talent in his 24-point performance in which he made 6 of 9 from the floor and 11 of 13 from the line. Kamau Stokes added 22 points on his own.
Overall, the Wildcats shot 80.6 percent on 2-point shots. That’ll win you a few games.
John Collins had 26 points for Wake Forest, but, as evidenced by Kansas State’s percentages, didn’t offer much in the way of rim protection or defensive intimidation for the Demon Deacons.
Kansas State now moves on to face the Bearcats in an interesting litmus test for the strength of the Big 12. The league was considered by many as the premier conference in the country. If the Wildcats, the league’ last NCAA entry, can best the Bearcats on short rest, it would be a data point in support of that argument. It would also be perhaps the strongest yet for those wishing to defend Weber’s tenure, which certainly looks very much likely to continue whether or not Kansas State makes the second round. What a difference a month makes.