25 REASONS WHY K-STATE GETS TO THE FINAL FOUR

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Two wins away from Salt Lake City, four wins away from Indianapolis, and six wins away from a NCAA Championship. That's the task that awaits Kansas State as it sets to enter the "Dance" on Thursday in Oklahoma City against North Texas. Is a Final Four appearance realistic? Why not? Here's 25 reasons why it is a distinct possibility.

25 REASONS WHY K-STATE GETS TO THE FINAL FOUR

1) Athletically, Kansas State can go sneaker-to-sneaker with any team in America.

2) Kansas State plays as it is coached … with a chip, a degree of anger and a relentless passion for competing. There's a big-city toughness these players from Chicago, D.C. and NYC have brought to Flint Hills, but without a selfish street-ball mentality.

3) Great guards in Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, who play with great sureness, but without ego. They are fearless. They want the ball, but not to the degree of being selfish.

4) Every team plays hard, but this Wildcat team takes it to a new level starting at the defensive end.

5) K-State has taken on the Kansas-type play. The ‘Cats lean on you, lean on you, lean on you … until you break. Ask Baylor in the semi-finals.

6) If not consistent shooters, K-State has streaky threats in Clemente and Pullen, who can individually go for 30, or combine for 50, on any given night. The two guards have combined for at least 40 points in 11 games, and have hit the 50 mark twice.

7) Teams cannot prepare for the speed of Clemente. There is no way an opponent can simulate the blur of his game on the practice floor.

8) K-State has played the best, and defeated the best, by finishing second in the Big 12 Conference, and defeating five Top 25 teams, including No. 1 Texas.

9) Dominique Sutton is a defensive stopper few teams can match. That's whether defending a 6-7 small-forward, or a 6-3 shooting guard. And, he can bring a total game as he did against Baylor with 14 points and 14 boards.

10) Jamar Samuels might be the best "6th Man" in the country. At least he was in the Big 12, which is arguably the best league in the nation. And, he's finding offensive confidence as demonstrated with 27 points against Oklahoma State.

11) Inside: Luis Colon gives K-State a banger.

12) Inside: Curtis Kelly gives K-State athleticism … a premier shot-blocker and offensive rebounder.

13) Inside: Jordan Henriquez-Roberts gives K-State 7-foot length.

14) Depth? It's the best in K-State history with Samuels, Wally Judge, Rodney McGruder, Martavious Irving, Chris Merriewether, Henriquez-Roberts and Nick Russell.

15) When the shots aren't falling, K-State can fall back on its volleyball offense of serving a shot up toward the basket and then having multiple ‘Cats go get it and "kill" it home. They are the best offensive rebounding team in the Big 12.

16) Along with paying attention to the Pullen-Clemente tandem outside, Samuels demonstrated that he was in a 3-point zone in Kansas City by making 6-of-9 treys, which could help eliminate teams from playing junk defenses against K-State.

17) K-State has prepared for quick turn-around games through proper scheduling throughout the year of playing multiple games in a short time frame.

18) Take away Michael Beasley and Bill Walker combining for 42.3 points per game, K-State has not had a more prolific 1-2 scoring punch than Pullen (18.9) and Clemente (16.2) combining for 35.1 since the days of Chuckie Williams and Mike Evans in the early-1970s.

19) Small-guard shut-down defender: Pullen; wing-type shut-down defender: Sutton; inside defensive presence: the collection of Colon, Kelly and Samuels.

20) K-State will end the year with four scorers – Pullen, Clemente, Samuels (11.9) and Kelly (11.1) -- of at least 11 points per game. That's a first since the 1981 team of Rolando Blackman, Randy Reed, Tyrone Adams and Ed Nealy.

21) At 79.6 points per game, this is the second most prolific scoring team in K-State history. The Wildcats simply don't have bad scoring nights as their season low is 63 points, and only six of 33 games have been below 70 points. Twelve times they've hit for at least 85.

22) K-State scores by 3s, deuces, and ones, as they have been among the top three teams in the nation all season in free throws made and attempted. Going into postseason play, K-State had attempted 120 more free throws than any other Big 12 team, and made 68 more than any other team.

23) The Wildcats force turnovers, and turn those mistakes into points. K-State is 15-0 this year when scoring at least 20 points off of turnovers.

24) Steadily, the Wildcats have become winners posting a record-setting fourth straight season of at least 20 victories. Merriewether and Colon hold the distinction of being a part of more team wins (92) than any player in K-State history.

25) The spotlight is no longer new to the Wildcats as it was in 2008 when they made it to the "Dance" for the first time in 12 seasons. K-State has since experienced "Big Mondays," and "GameDay," and the championship environment of the Big 12 Conference. Playing on the big stage is no longer new.

5 BUMPS IN THE ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR

1) While a great scoring team, K-State is not a great shooting team at 43 percent overall and 33 percent from 3-point range against Big 12 competition.

2) While shooting oodles of free throws, K-State is not a great free throw shooting team at just 66 percent for the total season.

3) K-State lacks the great big-man presence … but the same is true for the vast majority of teams.

4) Seldom, but at times, Denis Clemente's aggressive decisions flirt with being ill-advised.

5) K-State can't dwell on the most recent loss to Kansas, nor can it look too far ahead to a possible fourth meeting with the Jayhawks in what would be the semi-final game of the Final Four.


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