“Lockdown” Barry Brown is the leader Kansas State needs in the NCAA Tournament

Barry Brown-Kansas State-UMBC-NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Sweet 16

Barry Brown has passed perhaps the two biggest gut-checks of the NCAA Tournament.

First tasked with former Kansas State All-Big 12 guard Marcus Foster in the first round, then with UMBC star Jairus Lyles in the second round, Brown has guided the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010.

And he did it with K-State’s best player, Dean Wade, injured and at the end of the bench.

“He takes a lot of pride in (defense),” Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said after beating UMBC on Sunday. “He’s taken on that role…he studies the game. To do what he did to Marcus Foster the other night, it takes energy. It takes courage. But it takes being a student of the game.”

Foster, Creighton’s leading scorer, was held to a season-low 5 points. Then Lyles, who dropped a blistering 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting against Virginia’s ballyhooed defense, scored just 12 on 4-of-15 shooting with Brown on his hip.

“We all watched our matchups, and I knew that he was going to be my matchup for most of the game,” Brown said. “He’s a good player and has a plethora of moves…it wasn’t just me. We did a lot of switching and my teammates contained him as well. We didn’t really let him get going all game.”

Typical charisma of a veteran leader — cast praise onto teammates for your accomplishments.

Yet, even alumni of K-State basketball can’t help but take notice of Brown’s defensive efforts. Just take a look at what former Wildcats guard Martavious Irving — who was a freshman on Kansas State’s roster the last time the Wildcats went to the Sweet 16 — tweeted after the game:

The offensive spark

“Lockdown” Brown has also been Kansas State’s primary scoring option — he usually is when the Wildcats are at their best, even when Wade is healthy.

His 18 points against Creighton and UMBC were both team-highs. Ultimately, Brown is the player most responsible for the Wildcats’ win on Sunday.

“He was so tired,” Weber said. “He kept fighting it. We asked him to make plays on offense. Make his free throws. Guard the best guys. He just grinded it out.”

Here’s a snapshot of some of his best scoring efforts of the season:

  • Dec. 20: 23 points at Washington State, K-State won on the road despite trailing much of the second half
  • Jan. 10: 38 points (season-high) vs. Oklahoma State, Wildcats win by four to snap two-game losing streak in Big 12 play
  • Jan. 16: 24 points vs. then-No. 4 Oklahoma, Brown outshines Trae Young
  • Jan. 22: 34 points @ Baylor, Wildcats’ best road win of the season
  • March 3: 18 points vs. Baylor, K-State snaps two-game losing streak to win regular season finale with massive bubble implications

Is K-State in the Sweet 16 — or even in the NCAA Tournament — without any of those wins?

Getting Wade back

While Brown has carried Kansas State this postseason, the Wildcats are still eager to welcome back Wade to the starting lineup.

After Kansas State’s second round win, the All-Big 12 forward told reporters he was “98 percent” sure he’d play in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky.

Wade’s return will take the pressure off Brown, and likely create even more scoring opportunities for a player that looks as though he’s playing his best basketball right now.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the likely matchup for Brown defensively against Kentucky — he’s the second leading scorer for John Calipari’s squad behind forward Kevin Knox. In Kentucky’s last three games — Tennessee, Davidson, Buffalo — Alexander has scored 29, 19 and 27 points respectively.

Brown has proven he can handle any matchup defensively. If Wade plays against Kentucky, that’ll space the floor and create driving lanes for Brown. If K-State wants to make the Elite Eight, expect Brown to be the one to carry them there.

The post “Lockdown” Barry Brown is the leader Kansas State needs in the NCAA Tournament appeared first on Diehards.

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