We are here folks, the start of the 2014 NCAA Tournament as the first round OR “First Four” match-ups will tip later this evening. With that, we are only about 60 hours from 8-seed Kentucky facing off against 9-seed Kansas State in the second round of the tournament.
Kansas State enters Friday night’s game with a 20-12 record, 10-8 during Big 12 play. Currently the Wildcats are on a 3-game losing streak, dropping to three tournament teams in Iowa State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Looking at the Wildcat’s team stats, they do not jump out at you but can at times get hot. Shooting 43% from the field which ranks 212th Nationally, 211th in scoring per game at 69.7 and 110th in rebounding with 36 per game. One stat they seem to do well is passing and working as a team with 15.5 assists per game that ranks 27th. Ball movement is certainly one thing I am sure KSU will try to use as Kentucky is not known as a great defending team even with their improvement of late.
Leading the way for KSU comes in probably the most underrated freshman in the country, Marcus Foster. He averages 15.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per outing and is a guy who can get in the paint allowing shooters to open up.
Teammate Thomas Gipson is the only other Wildcat in double-figures at 11.8 points but does grab 6.5 boards per game. From there, the Wildcats play ten guys over 13 minutes per game meaning they could try to run with Kentucky.
For UK, they will bring to St. louis a group of freshman who have underachieved by most standards. Came in 2nd place in the SEC regular season and tournament behind the Nation’s top dog Florida. Posting a 24-10 record, 12-6 in conference play.
Kentucky will look to use their size and strength of Dakari Johnson, Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein to over power KSU. UK ranks 5th in the country with 41.6 rebounds and 46th in points per game at 76.4, two categories they drastically differ from the Wildcats.
My game prediction is simple, Kentucky wins as they are just too big and talented for Kansas State to compete with. Also, the Big Blue Nation will travel to the city with the arch to back a team who may have found their identity over the last two weeks.
UK 75, KSU 67.