K-State To Meet UC Irvine in NCAA South Regional Friday

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State was rewarded for a successful season on Sunday, as the Wildcats earned their 31st overall bid to the NCAA Tournament, including the fifth in seven seasons under head coach Bruce Weber.

The Big 12 co-champion, K-State (25-8, 14-4 Big 12) was selected as a No. 4 seed in the South Regional and will travel to San Jose, Calif., to play No. 13 seed and Big West Conference regular-season and tournament champion UC Irvine (30-5, 15-1 Big West) in the first round on Friday, March 22 at SAP Center. The winner will advance to play the winner of the No. 5 seed Wisconsin (23-10, 14-6 Big Ten) and No. 12 seed Oregon (23-12, 10-8 Pac-12) on Sunday, March 24.

K-State was the No. 15 overall seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, including third among the four No. 4 seeds (trailing Kansas and Florida State).

The Wildcats will be joined at the venue by No. 4 seed Virginia Tech (24-8), No. 5 Mississippi State (23-10), No. 12 Liberty (28-6) and No. 13 Saint Louis (22-12) of the East Regional. The top seeds in the South Regional are No. 1 seed Virginia (29-3), No. 2 seed Tennessee (29-4), No. 3 seed Purdue (23-9), No. 4 seed K-State (25-8), No. 5 seed Wisconsin (23-10), No. 6 seed Villanova (25-9) and No. 7 seed Cincinnati (28-6).

K-State and UC Irvine will tip off at 1 p.m., CT (11 a.m., PT) with the matchup between No. 5 seed Wisconsin and No. 12 seed Oregon to follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. The game will be broadcast nationally on TBS with Spero Dedes, Len Elmore, Steve Smith and Ros Gold-Onwude.

Public requests for NCAA Tournament tickets are available until 5 p.m., CT on Monday. Please click here to request tickets exclusively within the K-State allotment. Tickets are priced at $66 (upper level) and $100 (lower level).

K-State is making its 38th postseason appearance, which includes 31 in the NCAA Tournament and seven in the Postseason NIT. The Wildcats advance to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in the last 13 seasons, including in three consecutive seasons for the first time since making five straight appearances from 2010 to 2014. The program has now advanced to the postseason 11 times in the last 13 seasons (nine trips to NCAA Tournament and two to the NIT). The 31 overall bids rank 20th nationally, including fourth among Big 12 schools (Kansas [49], Texas [34] and Oklahoma [32]).

In its last NCAA appearance, No. 9 seed K-State advanced to its 12th Elite Eight by knocking off No. 8 seed Creighton (69-59), No. 16 seed UMBC (50-43) and No. 5 seed Kentucky (61-58) before losing to No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago (78-62) in the South Regional Final in Atlanta. Ten current players saw action in one or more of those NCAA Tournament games, including starts in all 3 games by seniors Barry Brown, Jr. and Kamau Stokes and juniors Makol Mawien and Xavier Sneed. K-State has a 10-8 NCAA Tournament mark in its last eight appearances.

The program has posted a 37-34 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play, including 11-5 in the first round. The school will be making its third consecutive appearance (2017-19) in the South Regional and the fourth overall with the other trip coming in 1993 and is 4-3 all-time in the region. K-State will be making its third appearance as a No. 4 seed and the first since the 2013 NCAA Tournament, in which, the Wildcats lost to No. 13 seed La Salle, 63-61, in the West Regional in Kansas City. The other appearance as a No. 4 seed came in the 1988 NCAA Tournament when the school advanced to the Elite Eight by defeating No. 13 La Salle (66-53), No. 5 DePaul (66-58) and No. 1 Purdue (73-70) before falling to No. 6 Kansas (71-58) in Pontiac, Mich. Overall, the school is 3-2 as a No. 4 seed.

In K-State’s 30 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, the Wildcats have advanced to the Sweet 16 a total of 17 times.  The program has also reached the Elite Eight 12 times, made four Final Four appearances and played in one National Championship game (1951).

Head coach Bruce Weber becomes fourth different coach to lead K-State to at least five NCAA Tournament appearances, joining Jack Hartman (1970-86), Tex Winter (1954-68) and Frank Martin (2007-12). Overall, Weber advances to his 13th NCAA Tournament, which includes six at Illinois and two at Southern Illinois. He is 41st head coach in NCAA history to take three schools to the tournament, including the 21st active coach. He has a 15-12 record in the NCAA Tournament with four trips to the Sweet 16, two in the Elite Eight and the 2005 Final Four.

K-State earned its fifth 20-win season under Weber and finished as co-champion of the Big 12 with Texas Tech with identical 14-4 marks. The Wildcats have posted 25 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, while the 14 in Big 12 play tie the 1958-59 and 2012-13 squads for the most in school history. The team is led by All-Big 12 First Team selections Barry Brown, Jr. (14.9 ppg., 4.1 rpg.) and Dean Wade (12.9 ppg., 6.2 rpg.) as well as All-Big 12 Honorable Mention picks Kamau Stokes (10.8 ppg., 3.3 apg.) and Xavier Sneed (10.6 ppg., 5.5 rpg.).

The Big West Conference regular-season and tournament champion, UC Irvine enters Friday’s game with a 30-5 overall record, which has won 16 consecutive games dating back to January 19. The Anteaters boast one of the best defenses in the country, allowing just 63.3 points per game on 38 percent shooting, including 33.2 percent from 3-point range, while grabbing 40.3 rebounds per contest. They are a balanced squad with nine or more players averaging 5 or more points led by Big West Defensive Player of the Year and All-Big West First Team selection Jonathan Galloway (7.0 ppg., 8.0 rpg.), All-Big West Second Team selection Max Hazzard (12.5 ppg., 1.9 rpg.) and All-Big West honorable mention pick Evan Leonard (11.1 ppg., 2.5 rpg.).

UC Irvine is led by head coach Russell Turner, who has a 187-127 (.595) record in 10 seasons at the helm of the Anteaters, which includes six postseason appearances in the last seven seasons.

This will be second meeting between K-State and UC Irvine on the hardwood and in consecutive seasons after the Wildcats earned a 71-49 victory at home on Nov. 17, 2017. Kamau Stokes was one of three Wildcats in double figures with a game-high 14 points, as neither team shot 40 percent from the field.

The winner of Friday’s first-round matchup will face either No. 5 seed Wisconsin (23-10, 14-6 Big Ten) or No. 12 seed Oregon (23-12, 10-8 Pac-12) on Sunday. The Badgers, who placed fourth in the Big Ten, are led three-time First Team All-Big Ten selection Ethan Happ, who leads the squad in scoring (17.5 ppg.), rebounding (10.1 rpg.) and assists (4.6 apg.). All-Big Ten honorable mention pick D’Mitrik Trice averages 11.7 points per game.

Led by former K-State head coach Dana Altman, the Pac-12 Tournament champion Ducks are one of the hottest teams in the country with eight consecutive wins since Feb. 23. Three players are averaging in double figures led by Pac-12 honorable mention selection Louis King (13.1 ppg.), Pac-12 Tournament MVP Payton Prichard (12.7 ppg.) and Paul White (10.6 ppg.). Pac-12 All-Defensive Team member Kenny Wooten has a team-high 62 blocks.

K-State is 2-4 all-time against Wisconsin, including 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament (2008, 2011), and 2-2 all-time against Oregon, including losing a home-and-home series in 2007 and 2008.

The four teams are among the best defensive teams in the country, allowing 59.2 points (K-State), Wisconsin (61.4 ppg.), Oregon (62.9 ppg.) and UC Irvine (63.3 ppg.) to all rank in the Top 20 nationally in scoring defense.

K-State was one of eight Big 12 teams to earn berths to the NCAA Tournament and NIT, including six in the Big Dance, joining No. 3 seed Texas Tech (West), No. 4 seed Kansas (Midwest), No. 6 seed Iowa State (Midwest) and No. 9 seeds Baylor (West) and Oklahoma (South). In addition, TCU is a No. 1 seed and Texas a No. 2 seed in the NIT. The Big 12 has eight or more combined teams in the two tournaments for the second straight season.

In addition, all three Division I programs in the state of Kansas (Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State) all advanced to the NCAA Tournament or NIT for sixth time in eight seasons.