K-State Earns 26th NCAA Tournament Bid

Junior Rodney McGruder was a second team All-Big 12 selection after pacing the team in eight categories.

March 11, 2012

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State men's basketball team was rewarded for their successful 2011-12 season on Sunday night, as the Wildcats earned their 26th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their fourth in the last five seasons by receiving an at-large bid to the tournament.

Kansas State (21-10, 10-8 Big 12) was selected as a No. 8 seed in the East Regional and will travel to Pittsburgh, Pa., to play No. 9 seed Southern Mississippi (25-8, 11-5 Conference USA) at the CONSOL Energy Center (19,069) on Thursday, March 15.  The winner will advance to play either No. 1 seed Syracuse (31-2, 17-1 BIG EAST) or No. 16 seed UNC Asheville (24-9, 16-2 Big South) on Saturday, March 17.  The Wildcats will be joined at the venue by No. 2 seed Ohio State, No. 7 seed Gonzaga, No. 10 seed West Virginia and No. 15 seed Loyola (Md.) of the East Regional.  Aside from No. 1 seed Syracuse and No. 2 seed Ohio State, the other top five seeds in the East Regional are No. 3 seed Florida State, No. 4 seed Wisconsin and No. 5 seed Vanderbilt.

Tickets are available to current Ahearn Fund members and men's basketball season ticket holders who did not place a pre-order.  Fans should call the K-State Ticket Office at (800) 221.CATS on Monday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.  Tickets are priced at $78 for each session in which K-State participates.  Seating will be assigned in order of K-State Athletics Priority Points.

Kansas State is making its 33rd postseason appearance, which includes 26 in the NCAA Tournament and seven in the Postseason NIT.  It marks the sixth straight postseason appearance for the Wildcats and the third consecutive in the NCAA Tournament.  Last season, the squad went 1-1 in the NCAA Southeast Regional at McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., knocking off No. 12 seed Utah State, 73-68, in the second round before losing to No. 4 seed Wisconsin, 70-65, in the third round.  The four trips to the NCAA Tournaments in the last five years is the best five-year stretch in school history and the best since the Wildcats advanced to four consecutive tournaments from 1987-90.  
The program has posted a 32-29 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play, including a 5-3 mark in second round games.  The school will be making its fourth appearance in the East Regional with its other trips coming in 1975, 1989 and 1996 and is 2-2 all-time in the region.  K-State will be making its second appearance as a No. 8 seed and the first since making a run to the Elite Eight in 1980-81.  Overall, the school is 3-1 as a No. 8 seed.  This will mark the first time the school has played in an NCAA Tournament game in Pittsburgh and just the second time in the state of Pennsylvania.  The Wildcats played Penn in the first round of the 1975 NCAA Tournament at the famed Palestra in Philadelphia. 
In K-State's 25 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, the Wildcats have advanced to the Sweet 16 a total of 16 times.  The program has also reached the Elite Eight 11 times, made four Final Four appearances and played in one National Championship game (1951). 

The No. 9 seed Southern Miss Golden Eagles are 25-8 overall record on the season, which includes a second-place finish in Conference USA with an 11-5 mark.  The team is led by eighth-year head coach and Conference USA Gene Bartow Coach of the Year Larry Eustachy, who earlier this year won his 400th game in 21 seasons as a head coach.  Eustachy has previously served stints as head coach at Idaho (1990-93), Utah State (1993-98) and Big 12 rival Iowa State (1998-2003).  The Golden Eagles are a balanced squad with six players averaging better than nine points per game, including leading scorer and Conference USA Newcomer of the Year Neil Watson (12.2 ppg., 4.5 apg.). 

This will be the seventh all-time meeting between K-State and Southern Miss on the hardwood with the series tied at 3-all.  The Wildcats have won the last two games in the series, including a 74-55 win in Kansas City's Sprint Center on Dec. 11, 2008.  This will be just the second neutral site meeting and the first-ever in the NCAA Tournament.  K-State has faced Syracuse twice, including once in the NCAA Tournament in 1975, with the series tied at 1-all.  The Wildcats have faced UNC Asheville just once, an 80-54 win at home on Nov. 26, 1996. 

K-State was one of six Big 12 teams to earn berths in NCAA Tournament, joining No. 2 seed Kansas (Midwest), No. 2 seed Missouri (West), No. 3 seed Baylor (South), No. 8 seed Iowa State (South) and No. 11 seed Texas (East) in the field.  The squad also faced three other squads that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, including No. 9 seed Alabama (Midwest), No. 10 seed West Virginia (Midwest) and No. 12 seed Long Beach State (West).

The Wildcats are one of just 15 schools nationally and one of five in the Big 12 to have their football team in a bowl game and both women's volleyball and men's basketball teams advance to the NCAA Tournament. 
In addition, all three Division I programs in the state of Kansas (Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State) all advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988.  The Jayhawks are a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Regional, while the Shockers (27-5) are the No. 5 seed in the South Region.