MANHATTAN — Most teams in the NCAA Tournament have known who their next opponent will be since Sunday afternoon, but Kansas State will be more than 72 hours behind.
That’s when No. 13 seeds La Salle and Boise State meet in a first-round game. The winner will advance to take on No. 4 seed K-State at 2:10 p.m. on Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“I have been here three years and I’ve never experienced that,” junior guard Shane Southwell said. “We are just happy to be in the tournament and have this experience, but it is a little weird not knowing who we will play.”
In previous seasons, K-State developed an effective scouting routine leading up to its NCAA Tournament opener. Video and other information on an opponent began flowing.
But the Wildcats will prepare differently this time. On top of adjusting to the approach of a new coaching staff, they will have to spend the next two days planning for multiple opponents before locking in on either La Salle or Boise State on Thursday in Kansas City.
“Time is of the essence right now,” assistant coach Chester Frazier said. “You’ve got to get going and get prepared. We will prepare for everybody. You are going to look ahead to the play-in game and scout both teams. Then you are going to look at the teams in the next round. We will just jump on them early. It’s a lot like the Big 12 Tournament. You keep scouting until you see who wins.”
Scouting for two teams instead of one will be a challenge. Coaches will come up with two game plans, and the staff will provide players with twice as much video. To help ease the process, Bruce Weber said four coaches will help gather information instead of the usual three.
“Recruiting and all that other stuff doesn’t matter right now,” Weber said. “This is their only focus.”
Some will argue preparing for multiple opponents puts K-State at a disadvantage compared to other highly seeded teams. Three other teams in the field of 68 have to deal with the same time crunch and challenge of facing a team that has already won a game in the tournament.
Boise State averages more than 73 points behind Anthony Drmic (17.3 points) and Derrick Marks (16.3). The Broncos won nine games in the Mountain West Conference — which this season has college basketball’s top conference RPI — and beat Creighton on the road. They are not easy to prepare for.
Neither is La Salle, which won 11 games in the Atlantic 10 behind dynamic guards Ramon Galloway and Tyreek Dureen. The Explorers beat Butler and VCU this season.
“If we knew who were facing today, coaches can break down film right now and just focus in on Boise State,” senior wing Rodney McGruder said. “Not knowing who we are going to be playing is going to be tough. We have to put in scouting for both teams.”
Of course, others will say it is an advantage. Sure, K-State doesn’t know who it will play on Friday, but La Salle and Boise State aren’t even thinking about the Wildcats yet.
“They are not going to be able to focus on us, either,” Weber said. “They are trying to win a game before anything happens.”
And while they are playing for a spot in the second round, everyone associated with the K-State basketball team will be watching.
A live game, especially in the NCAA Tournament, can often reveal more about a team than what can be found from replays of regular-season games.
“It will be nice to see the things they do,” senior wing Rodney McGruder said. “It will be a player’s scout. That will be nice to see their tendencies and the plays they run. People run different things in the tournament than they do in the regular season. It will be nice to see how they changed.”
Gonzaga-KSU will be Dec. 21 — Kansas State’s basketball game against current No. 1 Gonzaga next season at Intrust Bank Arena will be Dec. 21, the schools announced Monday. It’s a return trip to Kansas after Gonzaga’s victory in a neutral-court game in Seattle this season.
K-State season-ticket holders and Ahearn Fund members will have first opportunities to purchase tickets, with a public sale beginning at 10 a.m. Sept. 13 through selectaseat.com or by calling 855-755-7328. Tickets will range between $12 and $200, and K-State students can purchase $10 student tickets in the fall.