This Week In History (2018): Sweet victory over Kentucky in the Sweet 16

Kansas State Wildcat number 20, Xavier Sneed, prepares for the next play during the basketball game against the Kansas Jayhawks at the Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence on Jan. 13, 2018. (Archive photo by Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

The last time K-State advanced this far in the tournament, the Wildcats played against the Kentucky Wildcats to advance to the Elite Eight.

K-State entered the 2018 tournament as a No. 9 seed. Following an opening round victory over Creighton, many believed K-State would take on top-seeded Virginia, one of the nation’s best teams that season.

Then, the unthinkable happened. The Cavaliers were upset by a relatively unknown UMBC team that crushed Virginia by 20 points in the opening round, shocking pundits and breaking brackets nationwide. 

With the region’s top team eliminated, K-State looked to have a much easier path in the tournament, defeating the Cinderella Retrievers in the following game.

The Wildcats faced the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16, a powerhouse led by head coach John Calipari and several future NBA players such as All-Star guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and forward Kevin Knox II.

Kentucky entered the matchup as the No. 4 seed in the region, and was seen as the favorite over the underdog Wildcats of Manhattan.

K-State opened the contest with a hot start, going on a 13-1 run to begin the game. Forward Xavier Sneed hit two 3-pointers and guard Barry Brown also added a triple.

The Kentucky Wildcats fought back, cutting K-State’s lead to one point. K-State went into halftime break with a four-point lead of 33-29 thanks to six first-half 3-pointers, three of which came from Sneed.

Sneed continued to thrive at the 3-point line, drilling two more in the early stages of the second half.

The game continued to go back and forth in its final moments. With just 40 seconds remaining, head coach Bruce Weber called a timeout and drew up a play that had the ball in the hands of Brown. 

With the clock winding down, Brown drove inside and hit a tough layup to put the K-State Wildcats up 60-58.

With the ball back, Kentucky tried to go for the win, but guard Quade Green missed a 3-pointer and K-State secured the rebound. Guard Amaad Wainright then split a pair of free throws, and following another 3-point miss by Gilgeous-Alexander, K-State pulled an upset, taking down Kentucky and moving on to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2010.

The Wildcats were then taken down by another Cinderella team in the Elite Eight, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who was the No. 11 seed in the region.

Things feel eerily similar to the 2018 squad with this dramatic run. While these Wildcats are ranked higher, the underdog mentality is still there, especially for a team that was picked to finish dead last in its ultra-competitive conference and had just two players return from the prior season’s roster.