KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The NCAA Tournament bracket giveth and it taketh away.
Big 12 regular-season co-champion Kansas State was happy to wind up in the Sprint Center for the opening weekend. Playing its first game on Friday also gave the Wildcats who were nicked up an extra day of rest.
The down side was that coach Bruce Weber and his staff didn't know K-State's opponent when the bracket was announced. The fourth-seeded Wildcats (27-7) will open against No. 13 seed LaSalle (22-9), which won its first-round game Wednesday night.
While the Wildcats' coaching staff had to prepare for two opponents, facing the Explorers provides somewhat of a break for Kansas State. Weber likens LaSalle's four-guard lineup and 3-point proficiency to Iowa State.
"I'm not sure LaSalle is a great match up for us," Weber said. "LaSalle is very good. Great guard play, very, very aggressive. They seemed to play with a lot of confidence (against Boise State)."
While LaSalle can be dangerous shooting the three, Weber is worried about two other factors.
When facing Iowa State, teams have to aggressively defend the 3-point line; that tends to open driving lanes to the basket.
"You have to worry about the three but you really have to worry about layups," Weber said. "First we played Iowa State, we gave up too many layups. You have to be aggressive in closing out on the shooters but you have to make sure you also contain them if they decide to drive."
A second factor is rebounding. LaSalle, because of its four-guard lineup, gets out-rebounded by about three per game. But teams that launch a lot of threes also tend to chase down misses because longer shots when missed usually mean longer rebounds.
"If you give them extra opportunities, you're going to be in trouble because they have too many weapons," Weber said. "LaSalle has four guys in double figures and they all can go off on any given night."
LaSalle, meanwhile, had to travel from Dayton, Ohio, Thursday and have a little over 24 hours to prepare for Kansas State. For the school, it's a return to the city where it won the national championship, beating Bradley in 1954 in Municipal Auditorium, just a few blocks from the Sprint Center.
"Unbelievable tradition here," coach John Giannini said. "I think people have tended to have forgotten what a basketball power La Salle was for over four decades. So it's a big deal. It's a big deal to re-establish that. It's a big deal for people who attended La Salle and love La Salle, who had great basketball, and certainly they've longed for that."
No. 4 Kansas State (27-7) vs. No. 13 LaSalle (22-9)
2:10 p.m. Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, truTV
Coaches: Bruce Weber, Kansas State; Dr. John Giannnini, LaSalle.
Why they're here: Kansas State was an at-large selection from the Big 12. LaSalle was an at-large selection from the Atlantic 10 Conference and defeated Boise State, 80-71, Wednesday night in a first-round game.
Scouting the Wildcats: In his first season as Kansas State's coach, Bruce Weber took over a veteran team and tweaked things enough to earn a Big 12 co-championship. Once he got comfortable with Weber's motion offense, senior Rodney McGruder has been a consistent scorer. Sophomore Angel Rodriguez had a steady season at point guard while Shane Southwell blossomed as a forward/guard who provides perimeter scoring. Weber mixes combinations up front and utilizes a deep bench.
Scouting the Explorers: LaSalle employs a four-guard attack led by Ramon Galloway (17 points per game) and Tyreek Duren (15 per game). Galloway, Duren and Sam Mills all have made more than 40 3-pointers; Galloway leads the way with 83. Playing four guards makes LaSalle vulnerable on the boards and the Explorers have been out-boarded by about three per game. In their first-round victory over Boise State, the Explorers shot a season-high 63 percent from the field in defeating Boise State, 80-71. Steve Zack, a 6-11 sophomore who is one of LaSalle's few big men, has missed the last four games with a sprained foot.