There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the East Region’s 8-9 matchup in which the expressive Frank Martin and his Kansas State Wildcats go up against the underwhelming Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Kansas State-Southern Miss Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss in East Region
- Cincinnati-Texas Date: Thursday, 3/15
- Cincinnati-Texas Tip Time: 12:40 ET
- Cincinnati-Texas Location: Pittsburgh
- Cincinnati-Texas TV: TruTV
- Cincinnati-Texas Announcers: Kevin Harlan and Len Elmore
- Cincinnati-Texas Point Spread: Kansas State -6.5
- Tickets: Kansas State-Southern Miss Tickets
- Tickets: All Pittsburgh Sessions
- Tickets: East Regional Tickets in Boston
Kansas State-Southern Miss Analysis and Prediction
The Golden Eagles struggled mightily down the stretch are probably overseeded based on their high RPI. On the defensive end, they rank outside of the top 200 in free throw rate, which is a huge issue against a K-State team that has an impressive 42.9 mark in that category. That’s just one of many areas where the Wildcats hold an advantage, as they should also be able to exploit poor field goal defense by USM.
On the other end of the floor, look for a stout Kansas State defense to lock up a Southern Miss team that is among the worst two-point shooting teams in the country. The Golden Eagles do have a strong offensive rebounding percentage and do a solid job of getting to the stripe, but you can be sure Frank Martin’s squad will be ready to play on Thursday.
Most 8-9 games are close contests, but based on how USM has played of late, this one may get out of hand.
Predicted Winner: Kansas State
Kansas State Wildcats Team Capsule
- Conference: Big 12
- Record: 21-10 (10-8 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 6-8
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama, Baylor, Long Beach State, Missouri (2), Texas
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor (2), Iowa State (2), Kansas (2), Texas, West Virginia
- Player to Watch: Rodney McGruder (6’4” G, Jr.) – 15.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.1 spg, 39.0 3P%
Kansas State Bottoms Line:
The ever-entertaining Frank Martin’s team was on the bubble until beating Missouri and Baylor in back-to-back games to essentially lock up a bid.
Not surprisingly, the Wildcats excel on the defensive end of the floor, ranking in the Top 25 in turnover rate and the Top 40 in effective field goal percentage defense. They do a nice job of defending both inside and outside of the three-point line, and their block percentage is among the nation’s best. Offensively, they rebound over 40 percent of their own misses and have been effective at getting to the free throw line, both of which have helped to offset relatively poor shooting and a propensity to turn the ball over.
Guard Rodney McGruder leads the team in scoring and has been the most consistent offensive threat this year. Jamar Samuels, Jordan Henriquez, and Thomas Gipson do the heavy lifting inside, and all three have high rebounding percentages and free throw rates over sixty. Guards Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling lead the team in assists, and both have eerily similar numbers. Rodriguez has a high assist rate, and the team is at its best when he is playing well.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles Team Capsule
- Conference: Conference USA
- Record: 25-8 (11-5 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 5-5
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 3-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Colorado State, Memphis, South Florida
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Memphis, Murray State
- Player to Watch: Neil Watson (5’11” G, So.) – 12.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.2 spg
Southern Miss Bottoms Line:
Southern Miss was 20-3 in early February but faltered down the stretch going 5-5 and narrowly missing a couple other ugly losses during that stretch. The Golden Eagles have six players who score at least 9.5 points, so they do have a balanced attack. The problem is that their shooting percentages are ugly, particularly from inside the arc. USM does have a low turnover rate and has proven to be effective on the offensive glass. On the defensive end, the Golden Eagles do a nice job of preventing offensive rebounds, but their other numbers are mediocre at best.
Sophomore Neil Watson leads the team in scoring and assists, but he shoots less than 40 percent from the field. However, he does have a high assist rate and boasts a strong 61.1 free throw rate. Kentucky transfer Darnell Dotson scores 11.1 points per game despite playing under 20 minutes, and Maurice Bolden and Jonathan Mills each score at least 9.7 points and grab at least 5.3 rebounds.
Based on their recent performance, the Golden Eagles would appear to be over-seeded, so be wary of expecting too much from them despite their gaudy win total.
Related: Jump to our East Region Bracket Breakdown
See our other individual game previews:
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont