KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (20-13)
vs. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (19-13)
NCAA Tournament – First Four – University of Dayton Arena
Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:10 pm ET
Line: Pick, Total: 152.5
Both Kansas State and Wake Forest will be looking to advance to the Round of 64 with a win in Ohio on Tuesday.
Kansas State is heading back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014, when the Wildcats lost 56-49 in an opening round matchup with Kentucky. One area where this team really excelled this season was on the defensive end. The Wildcats allowed only 94.5 points per 100 possessions this season, which was good for 27th in the nation. They’ll need to do their best to stifle a Demon Deacons team that was eighth in the nation in offensive efficiency, scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions. One trend that favors Kansas State in this game is the fact that Wake Forest is 1-8 ATS when playing away from home after five straight games committing 14 or fewer turnovers under head coach Danny Manning. The Wildcats also happen to be coached by Bruce Weber, whose teams are an impressive 13-3 ATS after two straight games being called for five or less fouls than their opponent since 1997. Weber is, however, a lousy 1-8 ATS when his Wildcats have played away from home after two straight games as an underdog. This is the first time in history that Kansas State and Wake Forest will be playing one another, so it should be interesting to see who earns the first win. Both teams did, however, face two common opponents this season. Each of these two schools lost to North Carolina, and they both defeated Boston College (Wake Forest actually beat Boston College three times).
Kansas State is coming off of a very good performance in the Big 12 conference tournament, and this is a team that could make some noise if it gets past Wake Forest. That is not going to be easy, and the Wildcats are going to really need to dig in on the defensive end. The Demon Deacons have one of the best offenses in college basketball, and the Wildcats are going to need to scrap their way to a victory. The guys that lead the way defensively are F D.J. Johnson (11.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG) and G Barry Brown (11.7 PPG, 2.4 SPG). Johnson is a very good rim protector for this Wildcats team, and Brown knows how to get into passing lanes. Both guys are also a huge part of the Kansas State offense, which features one of the more balanced attacks in the nation. All five of the Wildcats’ starters average between 9.4 and 12.5 PPG. The team will need both Johnson and Brown, in addition to F Wesley Iwundu (12.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.0 SPG), G Kamau Stokes (11.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.1 SPG) and F Dean Wade (9.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG), to contribute offensively on Tuesday. Wade is especially important, as he is the team’s best three-point shooter. He’s shooting 40.9% from the outside this season, and the Wildcats will not be able to win without an outside threat. Iwundu and Brown can also do some damage from out there, though. It’d be big if one or both of them can get hot in this one.
If Wake Forest is going to beat Kansas State then the team is going to need to show up on the defensive end. The Demon Deacons are known for their offense, but you can’t win tournament games without getting stops. That means that a guy like F John Collins (18.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG) must stay out of foul trouble in this one. Collins fouled out against Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament, and that can’t happen again on Tuesday. He is Wake Forest’s best player on both ends of the floor, and the Deacons need him to play one of his better games of the season in this one. The other guys that will need to come through in this one are Gs Bryant Crawford (16.1 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG) and Keyshawn Woods (12.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.5 APG). With Crawford and Woods, Wake Forest has one of the better backcourts in the nation. Crawford is an unbelievable scorer and is exactly the type of guy you want on your team in this kind of tournament. He is capable of erupting offensively and could have some big moments on Tuesday. Woods, meanwhile, is an absolute sniper from three-point range. He shot 45.8% from the outside this season and the Demon Deacons will be counting on him to knock some down on Tuesday.