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K-State will play Gonzaga in December “Battle in Seattle”

28 Jun

ImageThe full 2012 Kansas State basketball schedule has not been released yet, but the university has announced that the Wildcats will take on Gonzaga in the “Battle in Seattle” on Dec. 15 at KeyArena, home of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from the Bulldogs’ home stadium in Spokane, Wash.

First-year Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber, who coached Illinois to a 73-61 victory over Gonzaga in 2010’s Battle in Seattle, said the reputation of the Bulldogs makes the game important for the Wildcats.

“This is a great opportunity to test our team against one of the best in the country in a great venue,” Weber stated in a press release. “Mark (Few) has built Gonzaga into an annual NCAA Tournament contender and he will again have another strong club in 2012-13.  I think these types of games are a huge benefit to your team, especially to a veteran club like we have coming back in the fall.”

Gonzaga has made 14 straight trips to the NCAA tournament, a current streak that is shorter only than those held by Kansas (23), Duke (17) and Michigan State (15). The Bulldogs have won 11 of the last 12 West Coast Conference regular season championships. In 2012, Gonzaga finished 26-7, its 15th straight 20-win season, and exited the tournament in the third round after a loss to Ohio State.

Last year the Wildcats won at least 20 games for the sixth year in a row, making the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. After closing out the season with a 22-11 record, Kansas State – like Gonzaga – went down in the third round of the tournament, losing to No. 2 seed Syracuse.

Kansas State is 2-0 against Gonzaga all-time, and Weber is 3-1 against the Bulldogs.

Just over a week after the Battle in Seattle, the Wildcats will take on another big non-conference name, but this time in a venue that is closer to home. On Dec. 22 Kansas State will face Florida, who made it to the Elite Eight in the 2012 NCAA tournament, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Weber is absolutely correct that these games will test his team. While it is uncertain at the moment how the Wildcats will fare against those more established contenders, I am always a fan of teams being legitimately challenged – even if they might lose – by playing reputable opponents rather than artificially inflating player and fan confidence (and national ranking) by playing teams that cannot possibly be competitive. 

On a side note, the season ticket portion of the K-State website includes pictures of Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez, Martavious Irving, Angel Rodriguez, Thomas Gipson and Will Spradling, so from that alone, it looks as though Weber succeeded remarkably in retaining many of the players from last season’s team.