Wildcats to open Puerto Rico Tip-Off against Charlotte

By The Mercury

The Kansas State men’s basketball team will take on Conference USA foe Charlotte in the first round of the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 21, as tournament organizers announced the complete bracket for the tournament Tuesday.

The Wildcats and 49ers will play for the first time in their histories at 9:30 a.m. CT on ESPNU at the Roberto Clemente Coliseo in San Juan.

The winner would advance to face either Big East regular season champion Georgetown or Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) regular season champion Northeastern on Nov. 22 at 1:30 p.m. CT on either ESPN2 or ESPNU, while the two remaining teams will play earlier in the day on Friday at 11 a.m. CT on either ESPNU or ESPN3.

In the opposite bracket, reigning Big West champion Long Beach State will play national runner-up Michigan in the third game on Nov. 21 before the final first-round matchup between the ACC’s Florida State and Atlantic 10’s VCU.

The winner of each bracket will face off in the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Three consolation games will precede the title contest.

The three-day, three-game tournament boasts one of the top fields, as all eight participating schools won at least 18 games and advanced to either the NCAA or NIT tournaments in 2012-13. It also includes four conference champions from a year ago in Georgetown (Big East), K-State (Big 12), Long Beach State (Big West) and Northeastern (CAA).

Charlotte returns eight lettermen and four starters from a squad that posted a 21-12 record and reached postseason play for the first time since 2008 with a trip to the NIT.

The 49ers, which finished eighth in the 16-team Atlantic 10 with an 8-8 mark, lost at Providence, 75-66, in the first round of the NIT. Among those returning for fourth-year head coach Alan Major is Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team selection Pierria Henry (10.3 ppg., 3.7 apg., 2.5 spg.) and Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team pick Willie Clayton (8.5 ppg., 6.2 rpg.).

K-State has never faced Georgetown or Northeastern on the hardwood. The Hoyas (25-7) tied for the Big East title and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive season in 2012-13 under 10th-year head coach John Thompson III, while the Huskies won 20 games and advanced to the NIT under eighth-year head coach Bill Coen.

This will mark the Wildcats’ second trip to the Caribbean island in the past five seasons, as the squad posted a third-place finish with a 2-1 record at the 2009 event. The team posted wins over Boston University (80-70) and Dayton (83-75) in between a loss to Ole Miss (86-74).

Led by 2013 Big 12 Coach of the Year Bruce Weber, K-State enjoyed one of its best men’s basketball seasons in 2012-13, posting a 27-8 overall record and 14-4 mark in league play en route to its first-ever Big 12 regular season championship and a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. The 27 wins were the second-most in school history.

The Wildcats will return eight lettermen in 2013-14, including four players with starting experience, highlighted by All-Big 12 honorable mention selection Shane Southwell and fellow senior Will Spradling.

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