K-State To Host Illinois State in NIT

MANHATTAN, Kan. Kansas State men’s basketball team was rewarded for its successful 2008-09 season on Sunday night, as the Wildcats earned their third consecutive trip to the postseason with an at-large selection to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).

Kansas State (21-11, 9-7 Big 12) was selected as a No. 4 seed and will play host to the No. 5 seed Illinois State (24-9, 11-7 Missouri Valley) on Wednesday, March 18 at Bramlage Coliseum beginning at 7 p.m. The game will not be televised. Due to NIT television rights agreements, live video streaming of the game will not be available on Powercat Passport.

The winner of the game will advance to play either No. 1 seed San Diego State (23-9, 11-5 Mountain West) or No. 8 seed Weber State (21-9, 15-1 Big Sky) on the higher-seed’s homecourt on date to be determined. Other match-ups in the region include No. 3 seed South Carolina (21-9) hosting No. 6 Davidson (26-7) and No. 2 seed St. Mary’s (26-6) hosting No. 7 Washington State (17-15). The winners of the four regionals will advance to Madison Square Garden in New York City for the semifinals on Tuesday, March 31 and the championship set for Thursday, April 2.

Kansas State is making its 30th appearance in the postseason, including its seventh in the NIT. It marks the first time in 15 years that the Wildcats have advanced to the postseason in three consecutive years since the 1991-92 and 1993-94 teams went to the NIT and the 1992-93 squad advanced to the NCAA Tournament. It is the first trip to the NIT since 2007 when the No. 2 seed Wildcats defeated No.7 seed Vermont, 59-57, in the first round before losing 70-65 to No. 3 seed DePaul in the second round. The program has posted a 5-7 all-time record in NIT play, including a 5-2 mark in games played at home. K-State made its most successful trip to the NIT in 1994, where the Wildcats defeated Mississippi State, Gonzaga and Fresno State en route to advancing to the Final Four. The Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt in the semifinals and Siena in the third-place game.

Illinois State enters Wednesday’s game with a 24-9 overall record and a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference with an 11-7 mark. The Redbirds, who are coached by Kansas State alumnus Tim Jankovich (1980-82), won 14 consecutive games to start the season and advanced to the championship game of the Missouri Valley Tournament before losing in overtime to top-seeded Northern Iowa, 60-57. The team earned victories over four conference regular-season or tournament champions, including Alabama State (SWAC), Bowling Green (Mid-American), Morehead State (Ohio Valley) and Creighton (Missouri Valley). K-State won the lone meeting between the two schools on Dec. 19, 1986 with an 87-86 overtime win in the opening game of the Music City Invitational in Nashville, Tenn. The Wildcats are 58-31 all-time against teams from the Missouri Valley Conference.

Kansas State posted its third consecutive 20-win season for the first time in over 25 seasons since the 1979-80, 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons. It is the 21st 20-win season in school history and just the fifth in the last 20 years. The team also has won nine or more conference games each of the past three seasons and has earned three consecutive byes to the quarterfinals of the conference championship. The 29 league wins since 2006 are the most in a three-year span since the 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77 teams posted 32. K-State becomes just the fourth school in the Big 12 era to have started winless (0-4 or worse) in league play and advanced to the postseason.

The Wildcats average 75.7 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting, including 35.9 percent from 3-point range, with 39.2 rebounds, 14.1 assists, 7.2 steals and 2.9 blocks per game. The team has scored 70 or more points in 23 games, including 80 or more points in 12 times. The Wildcats topped 2,400 points for the third consecutive season for the first time in school history in the 61-58 loss to Texas in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship on Thursday.

A balanced scoring team, K-State is led by the backcourt duo of Phillips 66 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and junior Denis Clemente and sophomore Jacob Pullen, who have combined for 900 points, 203 assists and 80 steals. A second team All-Big 12 selection, Clemente ranks first on the team in scoring at 15.4 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting with team-highs in field goals (160) and free throw percentage (79.4). He is second to Pullen in 3-point field goals (58), assists (99) and minutes (886) and third in steals (26). An honorable mention All-Big 12 selection, Pullen is second in scoring at 13.7 points per game on 38 percent shooting with team-highs in 20-point games (seven), 3-point field goals (69), assists (104), steals (54) and minutes (971).