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Wildcats No. 5 Seed, will Play Utah State

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State will be dancing in Tucson, Ariz., on Thursday when it takes on Utah State in the Southeast Regional of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats received a No. 5 seed, which ranked only behind No. 1 seeded Kansas and No. 4 seeded Texas from the Big 12 Conference, which received five invitations.

Saying he was "tremendously pleased" to receive that seeding, coach Frank Martin said, "They respected the fact that we played a strong schedule, they respected that we played well down the stretch and grew as a team, but every game is going to be hard. I'm ecstatic for our kids."

As for the K-State players, both old and young were ecstatic, as well.

Senior Jacob Pullen said, "This is what we play for. It's that stage of the season for me that the next loss is my last game of my career. You have to go play with an urgency because you know your clock is ticking."

Freshman Will Spradling said, "Growing up this is a dream of a kid to play in the NCAA Tournament. To do it my freshman year is really remarkable."

Utah State (30-3) won the Western Athletic Conference title with a 77-69 victory over Boise State for its eighth win in a row and 30th victory of the season tying the school record of 2008-09 (30-5).

The No. 17 Aggies last loss came on Feb. 9 against Idaho, 64-56. Since then they have rolled to wins over Fresno State, Montana-Western, No. 23 Saint Mary's, Idaho, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Boise State.

The Aggies will be making their eighth NCAA appearance in the last 12 years under coach Stew Morrill, who has posted a 13-year record of 324-102.

Saying he doesn't know Morrill personally, Martin said, "He's won a ga-zillion games and wins every single year, which is the sign of a good coach. You can put them down for 29 wins a year."

Thursday's winner will play the winner of the No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Belmont in a game on Saturday at the University of Arizona's McKale Center.

The team that wins two games advances to New Orleans where it could face Pittsburgh, the No. 1 team in the Southeast Regional.

The Final Four takes place in Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on April 2 and 4.

"We're excited about the new season, but we understand that the next time we don't find success in a game our season is over," said Martin. "I think we have enough guys on our team that went through it last year that they will do a good job of preparing this week, but in this tournament there are no easy games. It's going to be an unbelievable challenge, but we're excited to be a part of it."

COMPARING NUMBERS: Utah State is led by 6-7, 240-pound senior Tai Wesley, who carries a 14.7 average, followed by 6-1 junior Brockeith Pane averaging 11.6, and 6-1 senior Brian Green averages 10.6 per game.

"They run a lot of different things," said K-State assistant Brad Underwood. "They have a very athletic point guard in Pane, plus a big kid (Wesley) who is very, very capable, and then they surround them with a bunch of shooters."

                          KSU        USU
SCORING            73.1        72.2
DEFENSE           66.0        58.2
FG PERCENT      44           47   
FG DEFENSE      42          38
3-POINT               37          37
FREE THROW    .647        .736
REB. MARGIN    +6.8        +8.0

Within 10 minutes after the late-afternoon announcement, K-State had eight tapes in hand to start the scouting process, plus the availability of every Utah State game played on television this year.

'CATS AND A&M HAVE TOTAL PACKAGE: Of the Big 12 teams, only Kansas State and Texas A&M will have teams in a football bowl game, and in the men's and women's basketball tournaments this season.

The Aggies went to the Cotton Bowl and the Wildcats to the Pinstripe Bowl.

The A&M basketball team is a No. 7 seed and will play Florida State in the Southwest Regional, while K-State is a No. 5 seed and headed to play Utah State.

The women's NCAA Field of 64 will be announced this evening at six on ESPN. The Aggies are expected to get a No. 2 seed, while the Wildcats will likely receive a No. 8 or 9 seed.

HISTORY LESSON: Kansas State is making its 25th appearance in the NCAA Tournament with the Wildcats posting a 31-28 all-time record.

This is the second time K-State has been a No. 5 seed with the first time coming in 1982 when the Wildcats defeated Northern Illinois and Arkansas before losing to Boston College.

K-State has been to 16 Sweet 16s, 11 Elite Eights and 4 Final Fours - 1948, 1951, 1958 and 1964.

ONLY 5 FROM BIG 12: K-State was one of only five teams from the Big 12 Conference to make the NCAA Field of 68 as Colorado failed to receive an invitation.

No. 1 Seed Kansas will be in Southwest Regional against Boston University
No. 4 Seed Texas will be in West Regional and play Oakland
No. 5 Seed K-State will be in Southeast Regional and play Utah State
No. 7 Seed Texas A&M will be in Southwest Regional and play Florida State
No. 11 Seed Missouri will be in West Regional and play Cincinnati

"The committee has a hard job, but I'm disappointed that our league didn't get six (teams) in," said Martin. "I think our league continues to get slighted nationally and it's unfair. Our league doesn't take a backseat to anybody.

"Texas was in the Top 10 in the country the last two months of the season, and close to the No. 1 team at one point so I thought they deserved to be a little higher, but I'm just happy for us," said Martin.

On the No. 5 seed, Underwood said, "Frank schedules teams for a reason and it's nice to get rewarded for doing that."


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.