Kansas State men’s basketball wasn’t supposed to make the Elite Eight.
At least that’s what a lot of experts would probably tell you entering the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Not after the Wildcats were put in the same region as powerhouses including Arizona, Cincinnati and Virginia — the last of which entered the field as the No. 1 team in the country. Even the idea of sneaking past Kentucky may have been far fetched.
Fast-forward one week, and Bruce Weber has his Wildcats, a 9-seed, headed to the Elite Eight against all odds.
Whether it be some assistance in the form UMBC and Buffalo taking down Virginia and Arizona, respectively, in the opening round, some incredible grit from Kansas State without leading-scorer Dean Wade, or perhaps a little bit of both, only one win separates the Wildcats from an improbable trip to San Antonio, Texas for the Final Four.
And who they will face on Saturday at Phillips Center in Atlanta, Ga. is an even bigger Cinderella — 11-seed Loyola Chicago. The Ramblers have won three games by a combined 4-points, including an opening-round buzzer-beater vs. Miami, to put their university of approximately 5,600 undergrad students on a national spotlight.
Of course, it’s going to take some adjusting to get used to the bracket in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament — particularly the sight of a 9-seed vs. 11-seed matchup over halfway into March Madness.
If it seems unprecedented, that’s because it is.
Per CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, the Wildcats and Ramblers are set to play in the highest seeded Elite Eight contest in tournament history. The previous record — a combined seeding of 15 — was set during the 2000 NCAA Tournament when 8-seed North Carolina defeated 7-seed Tulsa. The same total was seen two years later in 2002, as 5-seed Indiana posted an Elite Eight victory over 10-seed Kent State.
No matter who wins, the sight of a 9-seed or an 11-seed making the Final Four will be a talking point that isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Even more stunning is that Loyola or Kansas State could be one of multiple teams with a 9-seed or higher to make the final four. 9-seed Florida State punched its ticket to the Elite Eight in the West Region on Friday with a win over 2017 runner-up Gonzaga, while 11-seed Syracuse is still alive in the Midwest Region — set to face Duke on Friday in the Sweet Sixteen.
The 2018 edition of March Madness has been beyond the wildest dreams for some. Just don’t let that distract you from the fact that history will be made on Saturday when the K-State faces Loyola — and perhaps prepare yourself for another wild finish, if we learned anything on Thursday.
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