Kentucky takes on Kansas State in busted South Region
ATLANTA -- Kentucky meets Kansas State on Thursday in what has become an historic NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 round.
For the first time, none of the top four seeds advanced in the South Regional as Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Arizona lost. Instead, the four teams in Atlanta vying for a spot in the Final Four are No. 5 seed Kentucky vs. No. 9 Kansas State and No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago.
After a weekend of bizarre upsets, Kentucky coach John Calipari is having no more of the Cinderella talk.
"Forget the seeds," Calipari said Monday. "Everybody is 0-0 that's moving forward and it's not about seeding; it's about who is playing the best. We are in a tough region."
Kentucky (26-10) reached the Sweet 16 with a 78-73 victory over Davidson and a 95-75 rout of Buffalo, a team that blistered Arizona by 21 points.
Kentucky is led in scoring by Kevin Knox at 15.6 points per game. Next comes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at 14.4 and coming off a 27-point effort against Buffalo on Saturday. PJ Washington averages 10.6 and Hamidou Diallo checks in at 10.3, which includes 22 points on Saturday.
As a team, Kentucky averages 77.3 points while shooting 47.4 percent. But the key is defense as Kentucky ranks No. 3 in the nation is 3-point defense and No. 21 in overall field goal percentage defense.
Kansas State is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010. Kansas State, the No. 8 seed, defeated Creighton and tournament darling UMBC to advance despite missing its best player to injury.
"Their perseverance, their courage, and just it's gutsy. I'm so proud of them," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said Sunday. "We just kept saying we weren't scoring, but we kept guarding, we're still winning."
Thursday's game will be the first meeting between the schools since Kentucky defeated Kansas State in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament on the way to the championship game.
Kansas State (24-11) enters this week with a major question: Will leading scorer Dean Wade be available? He missed the past three games because of a stress fracture in his foot. However, he told reporters Sunday that he was "98 percent and hoping to play against Kentucky."
The 6-foot-10 forward was a first team All-Big 12 performer with an average of 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
Next comes junior guard Barry Brown at 16.1 points and sophomore forward Xavier Sneed at 10.7. Sneed had eight points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists in Kansas State's win over UMBC on Sunday night.
Kansas State averages 71.6 points per game while shooting 47 percent overall, 34.3 from 3-point range.
Kentucky and Kansas State had four common opponents this season -- Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Georgia and Kansas. Kentucky posted a 5-1 record in those games while Kansas State was 2-5.
Updated March 20, 2018