K-State earns 25th NCAA Tournament bid (with player and coach reactions)

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State men’s basketball team was rewarded for their successful 2010-11 season on Sunday night, as the Wildcats earned their 25th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their third in the last four seasons by receiving an at-large bid to the tournament.Kansas State (22-10, 10-6 Big 12) was selected as a No. 5 seed in the Southeast Region and will travel to Tucson, Ariz., to play No. 12 seed Utah State (30-3, 15-1 WAC) at McKale Center (14,545) on Thursday, March 17. The winner will advance to play either No. 4 seed Wisconsin (23-8, 13-5 Big Ten) or No. 13 seed Belmont (30-4, 19-1 Atlantic Sun) on Saturday, March 19. The Wildcats will be joined at the venue by No. 2 seed San Diego State, No. 7 seed Temple, No. 10 seed Penn State and No. 15 seed Northern Colorado of the West Regional. Aside from No. 4 seed Wisconsin and No. 5 seed K-State, the remaining top five seeds in the Southeast Regional are No. 1 Pittsburgh, No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Brigham Young. Kansas State is making its 32nd postseason appearance, which includes 25 in the NCAA Tournament and seven in the Postseason NIT. It marks the fifth straight postseason appearance for the Wildcats and the second consecutive in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the squad made a run to its 11th Elite Eight in school history, knocking off No. 15 seed North Texas (82-62), No. 7 seed BYU (84-72) and No. 6 seed Xavier (101-96 2 OTs) before losing in the West Regional Final to eventual national runner-up Butler, 63-56. The program has posted a 31-28 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play, including a 10-4 mark in first round games. The school will be making its first appearance in the Southeast Regional with its other trips coming in the Midwest, West, East and South Regions. K-State will be making its second appearance as a No. 5 seed and the first since a run to the Sweet 16 in 1981-82. It ties for the third-highest seed in school history, trailing the No. 2 seed in 2009-10 and No. 4 seed in 1987-88. Overall, it marks just the seventh time that the Wildcats have earned a seeding of eight or better in the NCAA Tournament. In K-State’s 24 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). This will be fifth all-time meeting between K-State and Utah State on the hardwood with the Wildcats holding a 4-0 edge in the series. Three of the four contests have come in Manhattan, including a 66-56 win in the first-ever game in legendary Ahearn Field House on Dec. 9, 1950. The last meeting came in Manhattan on Nov. 30, 1988, an 86-67 victory by the Wildcats. The two schools have never met on a neutral site or in the NCAA Tournament. K-State has faced Wisconsin five times, including once in the NCAA Tournament back in 2008, with the Badgers holding a 3-2 edge in the series. The Wildcats have faced Belmont just once, a 66-62 win at home on Dec. 29, 2005. This will mark the first time the school has played in an NCAA Tournament game in Tucson or the state of Arizona. However, the team has played seven regular season contests in Tucson, all against Arizona, dating back to 1951. The Wildcats were one of a five teams to earn berths in tournament, joining No. 1 seed Kansas (Southwest), No. 4 Texas (West), No. 7 seed Texas A&M (Southwest) and No. 11 Missouri (West) in the field.

<strong>Head Coach Frank Martin</strong>

On making the tournament for the second-consecutive year…”As the guys have been through this before, they know focus is the most important thing. I am happy that we get a break from playing Big 12 teams. We are rejuvenated and excited to start a new season.”On getting a 5 seed …”They respected the fact that we played a strong schedule, they respected the fact that our kids played real well coming down the stretch and grew as a team.”On Utah State …”Any team that can win 29 games in a season is real good. I was handed a folder as soon as the bracket was put up there, so I’m ready to start learning.”On the Big 12 getting five teams in …”The committee, they’ve got a hard job. They’ve got to figure things out. I’m disappointed our league didn’t get six in. I think our league continues to get slighted nationally, and it’s unfair. Our league doesn’t take a backseat to anybody.On the postseason …”We’re happy we don’t have to play a Big 12 team at least for a week, and we’re excited. It’s a new season. We understand next time we don’t find success in our game, our season is over. I think we have enough guys on our team that went through it last year that they will do a good job of preparing this week.”In this tournament, everyone is good. There is not an easy game out there. It is going to be an unbelievable challenge, but one that we’re excited to be a part of.”

<strong>Senior Guard Jacob Pullen</strong>

On being in the tournament…”We have a lot of experience, so we understand how tough it is to wake up in the morning and play a team that you have never played before. You have to figure out what they do and what their tendencies are. But hopefully as a team we are going to understand the importance of every game.” On the seeding…”It is fine. Pittsburgh and Utah State are two tough teams. It meant a lot to us making the tournament last year. We learned a lot and understand the game of basketball by playing teams that you are not used to seeing.” On what the confidence is like after a loss…”It is all about matchups. It does not matter if you are a No. 1 seed playing a No. 16. If you are playing against a team with a good big-man game and you lack at the big-man position, then you could struggle. For us it is all about matchups. We will have to look at the tapes and scouting reports to see where our matchups will come at.” On Utah State…”I have seen them play. They get the late night games on ESPN, because they are on the West Coast. They have a really good big player with Tai Wesley being the player of the year in their conference. They play a really good matchup zone and rebound the ball especially well. That is the good thing about West Coast teams out there, they can shoot the ball well from all five spots. It should be a good matchup.”

<strong>Senior Forward Curtis Kelly</strong>

On NCAA selections …”I think that the NCAA did a good job. They matched us with teams that are smart and run good plays. All the teams that I have seen all have good big men.” On having experience in tournament…”It is really important. I have been to the NCAA tournament three out of the four years that I have been in college. We know that every play is important and that every game counts. I think I understand that more than the younger guys.” On the teams focus…”I think that we will be pretty dialed in when we get on the floor. Jake (Pullen) and I will definitely keep us focused because we know the seriousness of the NCAA tournament and we know that we have to play to survive. I want to survive and I know that Jake will want to survive. So we will be pretty dialed in. Frank (Martin) and the older guys will make sure of that.” On Utah State…”I do not know too much about Utah State. I know that they did a pretty good job in their conference. They dominated their conference. I know that they have the conference player of the year on their team. They are in the NCAA tournament for a reason which means they are good.”

<strong>Sophomore Guard/Forward Rodney McGruder</strong>

On the importance of reaching the tournament…”It is very valuable because it prepares for next year and the years after that.” On the five seed…”It is not a bad seed, especially after our bad loss against Colorado. I think it was a nice seed for us.” On the anticipation of seeding…”We were just waiting to see how it played out. We knew they were going to seed us for sure so we did not worry about guessing where we were going to be.” On Utah State…”I do not really know anything about Utah State. We will have to watch a little bit of film and then I can find out about their players and how they play.”

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