If nothing else the Kansas State Wildcats should be well rested heading into their matchup of the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles from Conference USA. Coming off a disappointing loss to the Baylor Bears in their first game of the Big 12 tournament, the Wildcat have had a long wait until Thursday to finally be able to go out on the court and try to atone for their last performance.
The Wildcats enter as a #8 seed which as everyone knows is not the best thing in the world as a victory in the opening game sets up a date with the #1 ranked squad, in this case Syracuse. First thing on the agenda though has to be Southern Miss who enters with an overall record of 25-8. The Golden Eagles lost in the semi-finals of the Conference USA tournament but easily made it into the tournament as an at-large team.
They are led by former Iowa State head coach Larry Eustachy who has been at the helm in Hattiesburg since 2004. Their leading scorer, Neil Watson, comes straight out of Big 12 country as he hails from Kansas City, KS. He is one of three players for Southern Miss who average in double figures in points scored, the others being LaShay Page and Darnell Dodson.
The reality for K-State on whether they win or lose this game comes down more on how they perform than how well Southern Miss plays. The Wildcats have been through the rigors of major conference play and should be able to beat a team that lost to Marshall twice in their previous three games with the one victory being an overtime defeat of East Carolina.
The Wildcats will need to come out and play solid defense without fouling as Southern Miss likes to try and get to the free throw line often. Assuming Rodney McGruder plays up to his abilities and a few other contributors like Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez show up this should equate to another first round victory for Frank Martin.