Before the start of the 2013-2014 college basketball season, Kentucky was the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament. On Day Two of the second round, the Wildcats begin their quest for a title as a No.8 seed.
On Friday night, Kentucky is set to face No.9 Kansas State in the field of 64. The two teams were placed in the Midwest Region, which is considered to be the toughest portion of the bracket. The winner will go on to face whomever comes out on top in the Wichita State-Cal Poly matchup.
While there is usually very little separation between No.8 and No.9 seeds, Kentucky is a decided favorite. At most Las Vegas casinos, they are giving Kansas State 6.5 points. They have better betting odds of winning the national championship than any team seeded No.5 or higher.
Kentucky did not live up to expectations this season, failing to rank in the AP top 25 poll, as they head into the Big Dance. However, their play in the SEC Tournament has some convinced that they are ready to make a run towards the Final Four. The Wildcats made their way to the SEC Championship Game, where they fell to Florida by just one point. The Gators are the No.1 overall seed in the tournament.
"It's a chance for us to validate what people said we could do at the beginning of the year," said Aaron Harrison, a freshman guard. "We became much better in the last month or so, especially in the last two weeks. It's a new season, we get another opportunity to play, and just go out there and have fun and see what we can do."
With Kentucky becoming many experts’ pick to have a big run in March Madness, few people seem to be talking about Kansas State. That hasn’t been lost on the club that won 10 games in the Big 12.
"I feel like we've been overlooked. I watch TV, we all watch TV, and we hear what people are saying," said Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson. "We're not going to back down."
The No.9 seed in the Midwest has very much had an up-and-down season. Kansas State got off to a rough start, losing three of its first five nonconference games, all to non-tournament teams. They answered that with a 10-game winning streak, including victories over Gonzaga, George Washington and Oklahoma State. To close out the year, though, the Wildcats have lost three in a row.
Kentucky’s roster may consist of more highly touted players, but Kansas State is led by experienced starters. Two seniors and one junior make up three of the team’s top four scorers. They’ve made several trips to the Big Dance, as Kansas State has reached the tournament in four consecutive seasons.
The leading scorers on both teams are in their first year. Kentucky freshman Julius Randle started the season with three straight performances of 22 points or more, but reached that mark just one in SEC play. Marcus Foster leads Kansas State with 15.6 points per game, putting up 29 and 21 points, respectively, in his team’s last two contests.
Las Vegas Betting Odds: Kentucky favored by 6.5 points
Over-Under: 132.5 points
Start Time: 9:40 PM Eastern Time
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream: March Madness Live
Prediction: Kansas State 73, Kentucky 68