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Kansas State gets first-round NCAA Tournament game on Friday at Sprint Center

Wildcats play winner of La Salle/Boise State

POSTED March 17, 2013 9:36 p.m.
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The Associated Press/

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber points to t...

MANHATTAN — Bruce Weber got what he wanted from the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Kansas State is playing close to home.

The Wildcats earned a No. 4 seed in the West Region and will open the tournament on Friday against Boise State or La Salle, who will play a first-round game Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

More important, though, the Wildcats (27-7) will be playing that game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., where the Wildcats beat Florida during the regular season and then won two more games to reach the championship game of the Big 12 tournament.

The Wildcats lost to Kansas, the No. 1 seed in the South Region, on Saturday night.

"You can't be more pleased than to be in Kansas City," Weber said, "and then my wish-list was to play Friday, because it just gives us another day to kind of rest, get treatment, relax."

The Wildcats are in the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year, and their No. 4 seed matches the 1988 team that reached the regional finals for the second-best slot. Kansas State also made the regional finals as a No. 2 seed in 2010 under former coach Frank Martin.

It was Martin's defection for South Carolina after last season that opened up a job for Weber, who was let go by Illinois. And while the hiring wasn't popular initially, Weber managed to win over Kansas State fans with every victory, and was ultimately voted Big 12 coach of the year.

Now, he'll try to win over even more fans in the NCAA tournament.

The Wildcats were drawn into a region that includes fifth-seeded Wisconsin, the team that knocked them out of the NCAA tournament two years ago. The Badgers could be awaiting them in the round of 32 if they manage to beat Ole Miss, the SEC tournament champion.

"I'm focused on Boise State and La Salle," the Wildcats' Shane Southwell said. "We're sick of playing against Big 12 teams, because it's like practice almost. You know everything everybody's going to do. Now it's more exciting, more spontaneous, I guess."

The Wildcats didn't know where they'd land in the bracket.

They figured they burnished their resume with high-profile wins over the Gators and a 14-4 record in the Big 12, but they also lost marquee games to Michigan and Gonzaga — the No. 1 seed in their region — along with all three match-ups they played against the Jayhawks.

"I'm just happy that we get to play close to (Manhattan)," said Rodney McGruder, the Wildcats' leading scorer. "We're fortunate that we made the tournament. You can't really think about, 'Man, we should have been a 2-seed or 3-seed. You just got to be happy with what you get."

It doesn't help that the Wildcats won't know who they're facing until Wednesday night.

"I think it will be difficult," McGruder said. "If knew who we were facing, coach could break down film just focusing on Boise State (or La Salle), but knowing we don't know who we are facing, it's going to be tough, because we're going to be balancing out the scouting for both teams."

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