Wake Forest (19-13) at Kansas State (20-13)
When: Tuesday, March 14th 2017
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, OH
Time: 9:10 ET | TV: truTV
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons used a late season run to punch their ticket to the Big Dance and a date with the Kansas State Wildcats in a First Four game in Dayton, Ohio. Wake Forest, who is coached by former Kansas Jayhawk Danny Manning, won four of their final five games including wins over fellow-tournament teams Louisville and Virginia Tech. The third-year Wake Forest coach will face his former in-state rival for the first time since the 1988 Elite Eight, where Manning led Kansas to a National Title that season. Forward John Collins ranks third in the ACC in scoring (18.9 points) as well as second in rebounding (9.8) and first in field-goal percentage (62.0) and won the conference’s Most Improved Player award and finish second in the ACC Player of the Year balloting. Sophomore Bryant Crawford (16.1 points, team-high 5.4 assists, team-high 1.4 steals) is averaging 22.3 points over his last three games and is a sizzling 32-for-34 from the free-throw line over that span. Crawford – the first Deacon since Randolph Childress in 1994-95 with over 500 points and 150 assists – and Collins are the first Wake Forest duo since Tim Duncan and Childress to record 500 points in the same season. Crawford is the first Wake Forest player to average at least 15 points and five assists since Chris Paul in 2004-05.
The Wildcats ended a two-year NCAA Tournament drought this season despite an 8-10 mark in Big 12 play, cracking the field of 68 largely on the strength of three Top-25 victories that included Baylor twice and West Virginia – both highly seeded teams. The balanced Wildcats have five players that average between 9.4 and 12.5 points per game. Defense has been the key for this squad, allowing an average of 54.3 points over its last three games and ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring defense overall (66.9). Senior forward Wesley Iwundu leads the team in scoring and rebounding (6.4), while sophomore guard Barry Brown averages 11.7 points and 2.4 steals (2nd in the Big 12). Forwards D.J. Johnson (11.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks) and Dean Wade (9.4 points, 4.6 boards) will be tasked to slow down Wake’s Collins, who has been held under 10 points only twice this season. Point guard Kamau Stokes has committed a Big 12-high 94 turnovers, recording at least two in 12 consecutive games. The winner of this 11 vs. 11 game will head to Sacramento on Thursday to face No. 6 seed Cincinnati in first-round action.
Both of these programs have been terrible against the spread in the NCAA Tournament, covering only twice in the last 16 combined games. I’m going to give the edge to Kansas State’s defense in this and the fact that the Wildcats play pretty well away from home. Kansas State is 11-6 ATS on the road this season. It will be a tight game throughout.
Pick: Kansas State PK
HEAD TO HEAD
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