Kansas State vs Kentucky
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
ATLANTA – Stars are made during the NCAA Tournament, and no one is shining brighter than Kentucky freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The 6-6 point guard looks to continue his stellar play Thursday as fifth-seeded Kentucky faces No. 9 seed Kansas State in a South Region semifinal contest at Philips Arena in Atlanta.
Gilgeous-Alexander recorded 27 points, six rebounds and six assists in Kentucky’s 95-75 second-round win over Buffalo and is averaging 21.8, 5.8 and 6.6 while shooting 57 percent in five postseason games – including the SEC Tournament. “He gives other teams hell,” teammate Jarred Vanderbilt told reporters. “When he has the ball, he finishes well, and when they collapse on him, he’s finding us for open shots, layups, dunks. He’s turned into a great leader for us.” Kentucky has won nine of its last 10 contests and enters as a prohibitive favorite against a Kansas State team that hopes to have leading scorer Dean Wade back after missing the last three games due to a foot injury. A First-Team All-Big 12 selection, the 6-10 Wade averages 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds for Kansas State, which relied on its defense to open the NCAA Tournament with wins over Creighton (69-59) and UMBC (50-43).
TV: 9:37 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (24-11): Barry Brown averages 16.1 points for the Wildcats, who defeated UMBC despite going 1-for-12 from 3-point range and committing 18 turnovers. Making its first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2010, Kansas State allows an average of 66.9 points behind a tenacious defense led by Wade, who was optimistic about returning to action after practicing on Wednesday. If Kentucky turns the game into a shootout, Xavier Sneed (10.7 points) could play a key role from beyond the arc.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (26-10): The highest remaining seed in the South Region, Kentucky opened the NCAA Tournament with a 78-73 triumph over No. 12 Davidson before shooting 56.3 percent in a 20-point win over No. 13 Buffalo. Expect Kansas State to slow the pace in an effort to contain Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox, who averages a team-high 15.6 points and scored 25 in the victory over Davidson. The Wildcats, who forced both opponents to shoot under 40 percent, could receive a boost from Vanderbilt as the freshman forward has missed the last five games due to injury but hopes to return Thursday.
1. The winner advances to face either No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago or seventh-seeded Nevada in the Elite Eight.
2. Kentucky holds a 9-0 lead in the all-time series, including a 56-49 win in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
3. Kentucky is 6-0 in the Sweet 16 under coach John Calipari, with an average margin of victory of 14.5 points.