Kansas State men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber isn’t playing down the 2018 edition of March Madness Cinderella.
University of Maryland-Baltimore County became the first 16-seed to ever defeat a 1-seed in NCAA Tournament history on Friday, knocking off Virginia in a 74-54 triumph that stunned sports fans across the country.
The Wildcats now get a date with the Retrievers — fresh off one of the greatest upsets in sports history — in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday. Kansas State previously defeated Creighton, 69-59, in the opening round.
The matchup surely favors Kansas State, a 9-seed, on paper. But in a week that has already seen the improbable happen on more than one occasion, Weber knows that his team can’t enter the contest assuming that its ticket to the Sweet 16 has already been punched.
According to ESPN’s David Hale, Weber has emphasized the psychological part of the game all week — even before the Wildcats learned they wouldn’t be facing the Cavaliers in the second round.
That began with telling his team not to view Virginia, the top-seed in the entire tournament, as the Goliath that many experts made them out to be. It has now shifted to not taking the court at Spectrum Center on Sunday with an “automatic-win” mentality.
“I was talking about a lot of psychological things after the pairings [were released],” Weber said of his prep work last week. “I just told them I didn’t think [Virginia] was that good. You just play with their minds a little bit, and last night, I did it again. Hey, they’re not that good — but this other team [UMBC] is really good. We’ve got to be ready for them.”
Kansas State could be down a man once again in round two as well. Forward Dean Wade has been absent the last two games for the Wildcats after he re-aggravated a foot injury from earlier in the year. An earlier report suggested that he could see limited time on Sunday, but nothing is certain for the Wildcats’ leading scorer.
Fortunately for the Kansas State, the team will have more respect for the Retrievers than Virginia had ahead of tip-off. But the lesson is simple — anything can happen in March, and the Wildcats best be prepared for the most unexpected of circumstances.
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