Kansas State is going to have difficult replicating its NCAA tournament success from a year ago. Unless it can once again survive the loss of its marquee forward.
Dean Wade, the Wildcats’ top player and Big 12 preseason player of the year, is unlikely to play in the tournament due to a lingering foot injury, coach Bruce Weber said Tuesday evening, per Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star.
The Wildcats, a four seed, are slated to meet UC Irvine on Friday in San Jose.
Injuries have cost Wade, who played minimally in K-State Elite Eight run last year because of injury, much of his senior season as it sidelined him for six games starting in December and carrying on into Big 12 play. He then aggravated the injury Feb. 16 in a home loss to Iowa State, but returned to beat Baylor. He did not miss any additional time during the regular season as the Wildcats tied for the Big 12 championship with Texas Tech as Kansas was shutout from a league title for the first time in 14 years.
The injury, though, forced Wade out of both Kansas State’s Big 12 tournament games, including a semifinal loss to eventual champion Iowa State.
“We’ve grown. We went through it, been through it without Dean, which is always tough,” Weber said after the loss to the Cyclones last weekend. “But we survived and advanced last year and we were able to get some experience under our belt. Obviously, it’s not last year. It’s going to be different teams. The ball is going to bounce different. The shots are going to fall different, but it gives us the self-confidence that it’s able to be done.”
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season while shooting 49.8 percent from the floor.