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KSU rides underdog feel into tonight’s matchup

By Joel Jellison

ST. LOUIS — Anyone who has watched NCAA tournament coverage in the last week might have heard the same thing: The Kentucky-Wichita State matchup will be tough for the Shockers.

That approach writes off the season Kansas State has had, and what the Wildcats feel they can accomplish tonight when they open the NCAA Championship against No. 8-seed Kentucky at 8:40 on CBS.

As he has time after time in the past week, K-State coach Bruce Weber was reminding people on Thursday that his team has faced this hurdle before.

And yes, his No. 9-seed Wildcats have crossed it a time or two as well.

The Wildcats (20-12) are undersized when compared to Kentucky (24-10) and maybe completely overlooked in its matchup with the SEC’s No. 2 team. But Weber insists, his team has been there before.

“We faced big teams in our league,” Weber said. “With Kansas a couple of times, Texas has the big bodies and length — Gonzaga in nonconference. We’ve been able to survive it. I think the big thing will be for us is, you know, we have to be a team-rebounding group.

“The guards have to get rebounds, I think that will be a big stat. How many long rebounds, second kind of bouncing, deflected rebounds we get.”

The Wildcats enter the tournament riding a three-game losing streak to some of the hottest teams in the country.

First, K-State dropped back-to-back games to Oklahoma State and Baylor — teams playing for their tournament lives at the time. Then, it was a loss to Iowa State at the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones went on to win the Big 12 championship.

All three teams are higher seeds than the Wildcats, and despite the losing streak, K-State is not lacking confidence.

“We’re really confident,” senior Shane Southwell said. “I know we lost three straight games, but we’re still confident. We lost to three really good teams, really good opponents, and all three of those teams were really motivated.

“Iowa State was motivated to win a championship and the other two were motivated to get into the tournament.”

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