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Utah State More than Mid-Major

By Mark Janssen    

TUCSON, Ariz. - The Big Dance has arrived for Kansas State and Utah State with the tipoff at 8:57 central tonight at the McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus.

On the key to a Wildcat victory, K-State coach Frank Martin talked of the discipline of the Aggies (30-3) and his Wildcats (22-10) pressurized play.

"It will be a battle of wills. It will come down to our willingness to be disciplined and pressure without fouling, and Utah State's ability to deal with our pressure," Martin said. "Then once the ball goes on the rim, it's who is going to have the bigger desire to go get it ... them on offense or us on defense."

On going against the 6-foot-7, 240 pound Tai Wesley, K-State's Curtis Kelly said, "He seems to read off contact. He posts up and then reads off your reaction. Whatever reaction you give, that's his reaction. He's good. I know he's good. I don't care what conference you are in, if you are the Player of the Year, that means you are a good player."

Martin said of Wesley, who averages 14.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, "He is a grown man. When you watch a young kid play, you immediately see weaknesses. When you watch a grown man play, the game's played a little slower. They understand when to do things and when not to do things. He never speeds up and he has both arms around their system."

Martin continued on Utah State's four-senior, one-junior lineup, "They're grown men who have been through it. They understand what this time of the year is all about. They've got a championship culture to the program. It's hard to overcome those things when you are playing against somebody that has those beliefs. They have size, strength, and they're physical."

UTAH STATE'S KEY TO VICTORY: From the Utah State point of view, junior guard Brockeith Pane (11.6 points, 3.4 assists) is Utah State's best player off the dribble, its best player in transition, and its best player at creating a shot when the offense breaks down.

AGGIES WIN LIKE FEW OTHERS ... BUT RECEIVE LITTLE RESPECT: In the last three years, Utah State has won 87 games, won three conference titles and two conference tournament crowns. For those 30-5, 27-8 and 30-3 seasons, they have been given No. 11, No. 12 and No. 12 seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Columnist Doug Robinson of the Desert News wrote, "The Aggies would be better off if the BCS were in charge of the basketball tournament. At least then they would be given a more defined path to a respectable seed in the postseason. In football, a national ranking, a conference championship, a conference tournament title, a high RPI rating and a sterling won-loss record would probably land them in a big bowl game."

"I think our seed is a slap in the face," Aggie forward Tai Wesley said. "I almost feel like we should have lost (Saturday) so Boise could be playing today and we'd probably have the same seed. The second we saw our name up there as a 12 seed we were almost confused a little bit. That's how it goes on Selection Sunday. I thought we would get an eight or a seven seed, or at the least a nine or a 10. I guess we will be back in the blue uni's."

Coach Stew Morrill added, "I was kind of thinking an eight or a nine somewhere in there - a 10 at the worst."

AGGIE SPIRIT: The Utah State student section is given credit for pioneering the "I. Believe. That. We. Will. Win." chant now used by multiple teams, plus the phrase "Loooooooosing team" late in games.

Oh yes, keep an eye out for "Wild Bill" Sproat, the 27-year-old, 300-pound Utah State fan that often shows up to games shirtless or in costume.


We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.