|Kansas State-Creighton matchup includes a twist|
Anyone who thinks the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee doesn't have a sense of humor -- or at least a sense of irony -- need only to look at Friday's first-round matchup in the South Regional between ninth-seeded Kansas State and eighth-seeded Creighton.
The Wildcats and Bluejays will square off in Charlotte, N.C., likely for the right to face No. 1 Virginia in the second round.
The Bluejays (21-11) are led by senior guard Marcus Foster, who scores 20.3 points per game. Foster is completing his second year at Creighton after playing his first two years at Kansas State. He was kicked off the team after the 2015 season for multiple violations of team rules.
Everyone played nice when talking about Foster facing his former school and coach, Bruce Weber. But it's likely that both sides are relishing the chance to make a statement.
"I haven't really talked to him, but I know people who have talked to him and he doesn't have any ill feelings toward us or anything," Weber said Sunday night after the matchup was announced.
"I know he said that he wished he would have made some other decisions. But I've said it many times, if I helped him become a better man, a better player in the long run, that's my job. That's what I'm supposed to do as a coach. I'm a coach, I'm an educator. If I did that and helped him in life, then I feel good about it."
Foster said he's less likely to use revenge as a key than he would have earlier in his time at Creighton.
"It's always exciting to play a team you once played for," he said Sunday. "I think if you asked me that question when I first got here, I'd have been more like 'I want to get payback or have revenge.' But with this year being my senior year, it really didn't matter who we would have played. I would have been excited just to get out there and play in this tournament.
"When I first committed here, I said I wanted to play (K-State) in the tournament. That would be like my time to get back. I've been preparing myself for it. I've got to stay even keel. I can't get too excited about it or not try to overlook it. Just try to go with it, just enjoy the experience for my last time."
Foster is not the only player Kansas State must stop, as Creighton ranks 10th in scoring in Division I with 84.3 points per game. Khyri Thomas adds 15.3 points per game and Martin Krampelj averages 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Kansas State (22-11) will be helped by the fact that its two leading scorers -- Dean Wade (16.7points per game) and Barry Brown (16.6) -- will be back. Wade missed the Wildcats' last game, a Big 12 Tournament semifinal loss to Kansas, with a stress fracture in a foot. Brown was poked in the eye in the first two minutes and missed the rest of the game.
"I'm still doing stuff," Wade said Sunday. "This (walking boot) is kind of precautionary, just making sure it gets better and doesn't get any worse. I'll be good by Friday, though.
"Honestly, when (Barry) got poked, at first I thought, man, his eye just fell out of his head or something. I felt awful for him. I think (having both players return) just brings a little more experience to the table. We've only been there once, but we've had a little success in there, beating Wake Forest (in the First Four in 2017). (We'll) help everyone keep calm under stress."
Creighton coach Greg McDermott said his squad will be ready for a battle.
"They'll be disciplined, they'll be hard-nosed," he said. "They're a good basketball team from a good league. They won't beat themselves. It'll be a physical, kind of grind-it-out-type of game, but we're excited to be in it.
"I'm not sure the difference between a 5 seed and a 10 or 11 seed this year. It's paper thin. College basketball this year, the unexpected became the normal. Virginia's probably one of the few that avoided having a bad week or 10 days during the season. That's rare.
"Our options were really limited if we were on the 8, 9 line. K-State (is) a good matchup for us."
With an ironic twist thrown in.