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Pick With Analysis
The Kansas State Wildcats (21-10, RPI: 49) feature one of the most intimidating coaches in all of college basketball. The 6-5 Frank Martin can be seen staring daggers from the sidelines to players stupid enough to make a mistake on his watch. His approach is very similar to his mentor, Bob Huggins. Martin has experienced great success in his four years as KSU's head coach. They have gone to the Big Dance three times and won at least a single game in each trip. They will look to keep that streak alive as the eighth seed in the East Region. Their foe is the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (25-8, RPI: 21). The Wildcats are a 6 point favorite to reach the second round.
Southern Miss finished the regular season in second place of Conference USA. Early in the year they battled to double OT before losing to Murray State, a team that would lose just a single time all year long. The Golden Eagle's best nonconference win came against the Big East's South Florida. Inside the conference they traded games with Memphis and beat Marshall once before losing to them twice. Southern Miss finished 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Kansas State owns a plethora of strong wins. Outside the conference they defeated Alabama and Long Beach State. In the Big 12 they dropped Missouri (twice), Texas and Baylor. The Wildcats finished fifth in the Big 12 before losing to Baylor in the first game of the Big 12 Tournament. They were 5-5 in their final 10 games of the season.
Senior Jamar Samuels is a force down low for Kansas State. He averages 10.3 PPG to go with 6.6 RPG. His best game of the year came against Kansas when he scored 20 points and cleaned the glass for 12 rebounds. Samuels will rely on junior G Rodney McGruder. The leading scorer for Kansas State at 15.4 PPG, McGruder played very well down the stretch. He's a good three pointer shooter and that will be his weapon in the NCAA Tournament. McGruder makes 80.4% of his free throws.
Southern Miss will present a balanced shooting attack steadied by leading scorer Neil Watson. The sophomore G averages 12.2 PPG. He scored a season high 27 points in a road loss to Houston. Junior G LaShay Page is second in scoring at 11.5 PPG. Page is a good three point shooter as he proved by going 8-11 with his jumper against Colorado State. Down low Southern Miss will depend on the 6-10 Maurice Bolden and 6-6 Jonathan Mills. They combine for 19.6 PPG and 11.5 RPG.
Kansas State plays well on the road. In back to back performances they traveled to knock off top 10 teams Missouri and Baylor. The best road win for Southern Miss came against Colorado State who they drubbed by 21 points. Our Pick - Kansas State -5
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