Unlikely heroes main Kansas State’s rise to Final Four contender


There was doubt whether or not star wing Keyontae Johnson would ever play once more. Dynamic level guard Markquis Nowell is 5-foot-8 with platforms on. The coach, Jerome Tang, labored his means up from highschool to serving as an assistant for practically twenty years earlier than lastly getting his probability.

Together, they haven’t solely put Kansas State again on the map, however have made the Wildcats appear to be a Final Four contender. There is not any higher story within the sport than what has taken place within the Little Apple this winter underneath Tang.

After snapping a seven-game dropping streak to in-state rival Kansas final Tuesday for its fifth Quad 1 win, Kansas State is on their own atop the fierce Big 12 and undefeated at Bramlage Coliseum. It has ascended to its highest nationwide rating in a decade and already has three extra wins than it managed all of final season, the third of three straight dropping seasons. It is additional proof that it would not must take a number of years anymore to show round a program, and in addition a nod to the distinctive job Tang did within the switch portal.

Kansas State ahead Keyontae Johnson (11) blocks a shot by Kansas ahead Jalen Wilson (10) in the course of the first half of an NCAA faculty basketball sport.PA

It begins with Johnson, the 6-foot-6 senior who leads the group in scoring (18.5) and rebounding (7.4) and is capturing a sturdy 40.4 % from 3-point vary. It was solely two years in the past this previous December that Johnson collapsed on the court docket whereas taking part in for Florida. Diagnosed with myocarditis, he was positioned in a medically induced coma for 3 days.

Johnson was an honorary assistant coach for the Gators final 12 months — he was often called “Coach Key” — and since college medical doctors would not clear him medically, he entered the switch portal and landed in Manhattan, Kansas after being given the inexperienced gentle by medical doctors there.

coachKansas State coach Jerome Tang.PA

Johnson was joined by transfers Desi Sills (Arkansas State), Nae’Qwan Tomlin (junior faculty) and David N’Guessan (Virginia Tech) who had been added to an current core led by Nowell, the previous Arkansas Little Rock star. Small in stature at a listed 5-foot-8, the Harlem native who goes by Mr. New York City on social media is a two-way dynamo, a tenacious on-ball defender averaging 2.3 steals per sport and a prepared passer (8.4 assists).

The 56-year-old Tang has made all of it work, making a genius out of Kansas State for hiring him. He spent 19 years at Baylor working for Scott Drew, serving to him elevate that program to among the many nation’s greatest. And now he is instantly doing the identical factor at Kansas State, successful at a degree no one might have anticipated this quick.

ncaaKansas State celebrates a win over rival Kansas.Getty Images

All Aboard!

It is already wanting like will probably be an enchanting teaching carousel eight weeks earlier than Selection Sunday. Three main packages — Texas, Notre Dame and Georgetown — are anticipated to have openings.

This week, Mike Brey introduced he’ll retire after 23 seasons at Notre Dame. Texas not too long ago fired Chris Beard following his Dec. 12 arrest on a third-degree felony home violence cost after an altercation together with his fiancée. And Georgetown, within the midst of an unfathomably poor stretch underneath Patrick Ewing by which the Hoyas have misplaced 29 straight league video games, will virtually actually make a change.

Pat Kelsey, the coach at College of Charleston, figures to be on the high of many lists. He has the Cougars ranked 18th nationally, after main Winthrop to 5 20-win seasons in 9 years on the Big South college. Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, in his third season at Iona, hasn’t precisely made it a secret of his need to get yet one more shot on the massive time. North Texas coach Grant McCasland is one other identify to comply with. He has gained on the Division II, junior faculty and Division I degree, labored underneath Drew at Baylor, and is headed to his sixth 20-win season in seven years as a Division I coach.

ncaaIona coach Rick PitinoGetty Images

Of these colleges, I consider Georgetown is essentially the most interesting for a number of causes. Expectations are via the roof at Texas, a spot the place basketball won’t ever be No. 1. Notre Dame hasn’t been the identical since leaving the Big East, reaching the event simply as soon as since 2017, and like Texas, soccer is at all times No. 1 in South Bend.

At Georgetown, the bar is extremely low. Ewing has both been unable to maintain his greatest gamers or win with them. It is positioned in the course of a fertile recruiting floor loaded with wealthy boosters who’re uninterested in this once-proud program being a laughingstock. The subsequent coach could have tons of assets and even higher accomplishments shall be praised due to the previous mess.

Game of the Week:

No. 2 Kansas at Kentucky, Saturday, 8 p.m.

Kentucky is beginning to crawl its means again into NCAA Tournament rivalry after consecutive wins over No. 9 Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M. The disappointing Wildcats, house owners of a 3-5 file in Quad 1 and a couple of video games, can actually begin to rewrite their narrative by knocking off the defending nationwide champions in Lexington. Kansas, for all of its elite-level expertise, has no one to cope with stud massive man Oscar Tshiebwe, final season’s National Player of the Year who averages a double-double.

ncaaKentucky’s Oscar TshiebwePA


  1. Alabama, Purdue, Kansas, Texas
  2. Arizona, Tennessee, UCLA, TCU
  3. Houston, Virginia, Gonzaga, Marquette
  4. Kansas State, Xavier, Iowa State, Miami

inventory watch

Shaka Smart, Up

It’s time to incorporate Smart in National Coach of the Year conversations. In his second season, he has Marquette only a half-game behind Xavier within the race for the Big East convention lead and looking out like a harmful March risk. Remember, the Golden Eagles misplaced three of their high 4 scorers — Justin Lewis, Darryl Morsell and Greg Elliot — from final season’s event group and had been picked to complete ninth within the league. They look even higher this season, deeper offensively (5 gamers common in double figures) and stronger, possessing the No. 1 offense within the nation when it comes to effectivity.

Trayce Jackson-Davis, Up

The senior ahead has led Indiana again into the center of the pack within the Big Ten with three straight robust performances in the course of the Hoosiers’ present three-game successful streak. Sunday was his better of him but, an excellent 31-point, 15-rebound, five-block, four-assist outing in a house victory over Michigan State. The 6-foot-9 southpaw has made a significant leap as a playmaker, averaging a career-best 3.5 assists, to associate with 18.6 factors, 9.8 rebounds and a couple of.9 blocks.

ncaaIndiana ahead Trayce Jackson-DavisUSA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech, Down

The Red Raiders’ run of 4 straight NCAA Tournament bids is about to return to an finish. They fell to 0-7 within the Big 12 on Saturday, and are with no Quad 1 or 2 win. Seven of their 9 losses have come by seven factors or much less. It’s honest to marvel if final 12 months’s success underneath Mark Adams was extra a product of him inheriting Chris Beard’s gamers. While Texas Tech has been harm badly by the foot harm to key Utah Valley State switch Fardaws Aimaq that value him the primary 17 video games of the season, there’s nonetheless greater than sufficient expertise on the roster to be in a a lot better place at this level of the season.

Mike HopkinsDown

It wasn’t so way back that Hopkins was thought of a rising star, that his resolution to go away Syracuse would value this system dearly. In his first two years as a head coach, he gained a mixed 48 video games and led Washington to an NCAA Tournament victory. But that success has confirmed to be fleeting. The Huskies have not come shut to creating it the previous three seasons, and nothing has modified this 12 months. It is not even within the high 100 of the NET rankings (112), has already suffered 4 residence losses and is 0-5 in opposition to the highest half of the Pac-12. Recruiting has fallen off a cliff for the reason that blockbuster 2019 class led by Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. With simply two years left on his contract after this one, Hopkins’ job could possibly be in hassle if this 12 months continues on its dismal path.

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