On Sunday, the Kansas State men’s basketball team received an at-large bid into this year’s NCAA Tournament. K-State take on the Creighton Bluejays on Friday in the South Regional tournament, hosted in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Coming in at a No. 9 seed, K-State comes into this game after a loss against KU in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. During that game, K-State faced multiple roadblocks as both of the All-Conference players, juniors Dean Wade and Barry Brown, were on the bench with injuries. Wade was in a walking boot because of foot injury, and Brown was raked in the face by KU’s Devonte’ Graham, which later made his eye swell shut.
The game was able to show a hidden talent for the Wildcats. That talent was sophomore Makol Mawien, who took charge of the game and became a leader for the Wildcats. Mawien ended the game with a career high of 29 points, as well as four rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Mawien’s talent wasn’t able to be explored as much during the earlier parts of the season, as he was in a lot of foul trouble. He ended with four fouls, one short of being fouled out.
The Creighton Bluejays have ended their season 21-11 overall, 10-8 in conference play, finishing third in the Big East. As K-State finished at the No. 4 spot in the Big 12, this matchup may be pretty even.
Upon his departure from K-State in 2017, Marcus Foster has made noise for the Bluejays, as he has been the leading scorer for Creighton on multiple occasions. During Creighton’s overtime heartbreaking loss to Providence in the Big East tournament, Foster led the Bluejays with 19 points, three assists and five rebounds. Foster averages 20.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
For Creighton, Khyri Thomas also makes a path. Thomas averages 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Thomas has been a huge advantage for the Bluejays along with Foster, as they both shoot 42 percent from the three-point line.
With a questionable return for Wildcat leading scorer Wade, it becomes the question of how much other players will step up to fill his void. Wade averages 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
As of now, Brown is expected to play in Friday’s game after recovering from his eye injury. Brown is the second leader for the Wildcats, with 16 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. With the help of Brown, there may be a chance that he will lead the Wildcats, along with sophomore Xavier Sneed, junior Kamau Stokes, redshirt freshman Cartier Diarra and Mawien. These five players could be the key to a Wildcat victory with cohesive game play and even work.
Creighton is known to be a high-scoring, strong, offensive team, and it is currently ranking No. 10 nationally in points and No. 11 nationally in field goal percentage. The Bluejays have reached triple digits in four games, and have topped 90 points in 10 games during this season. The Wildcats did not achieve either of those.
Tempo, consistency, speed, work ethic and communication will be the keys to a Wildcat win. During this season, the Wildcats have been able to contain high-scoring teams — such as TCU — under 70 points with their strong defense. Their effort in those games should not be any different when it comes to this matchup.
The K-State and Creighton matchup is set to tip off at approximately 5:50 p.m. on Friday and will be televised on TNT and the K-State Sports Network.