WHO: No. 13 UC Irvine (30-5) vs. No. 4 Kansas State (25-8).
WHAT: NCAA South Regional first-round game, Friday, 11 a.m.
WHERE: SAP Center, San Jose. TV: TBS.
UPDATE: Irvine coach Russell Turner called the Wildcats “a Power Five [conference] version of what we are.” Both teams have balanced scoring, junior and senior leadership and stout defenses. “They’re about what I’d envision we would be if we were in the Pac-12,” Turner said. “That means they’ve got more accomplished players. Bigger, faster, better players. Doesn’t mean those players are going to be better than we are. But that’s what we’re up against.” Kansas State has been to the NCAA tournament 30 times, which is 29 more than Irvine. The Anteaters, however, still feature notable lineage: Max Hazzard is the grandson of former UCLA legend Walt Hazzard, Collin Welp is the son of former University of Washington great Christian Welp, Spencer Rivers is the son of Clippers coach Doc Rivers and JC Butler is the son of former Laker and Clipper Caron Butler. Irvine’s previous NCAA tournament appearance came in 2015, when the Anteaters lost in the closing seconds to Louisville 57-55. “Still, to this day, I haven’t watched the whole game just because I know how it ends,” said Alex Young, who played on that team and is now the Anteaters’ video coordinator. “Being a part of that ending is kind of rough. I wouldn’t say it’s behind me.” That team orbited around 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye, who might have been the single most intriguing player in the 2015 tournament. These Anteaters are much more well rounded. Then at Illinois, Kansas State’s Bruce Weber was the opposing coach for Turner’s first Division I game at Irvine, in November of 2010. The Illini won 79-65, although Turner said “it felt like they went up on us 30-0 to start.”
Max Hazzard 5-10 170 12.5 ppg G
Robert Cartwright 6-2 180 8.8 ppg G
Evan Leonard 6-1 185 11.1 ppg G
Tommy Rutherford 6-8 240 6.8 ppg F
Jonathan Galloway 6-10 235 7.0 ppg F
Eyassu Worku 6-2 175 7.5 ppg G
Collin Welp 6-9 215 8.9 ppg F
Elston Jones 6-9 260 5.7 ppg F
Cartier Diarra 6-4 190 6.7 ppg G
Kamau Stokes 6-0 170 10.8 ppg G
Barry Brown Jr. 6-3 195 14.9 ppg G
Xavier Sneed 6-5 220 10.6 ppg F
Makol Mawien 6-9 245 6.8 ppg F
Mike McGuirl 6-2 195 3.5 ppg G
Austin Tice 6-7 235 1.9 ppg F
Levi Stockard III 6-8 240 1.8 ppg F