Both teams hit mid-season slumps and looked like they'd be on the outside looking in when March arrived, but the Wildcats and Demon Deacons came alive at the right time.
How Mount St. Mary's got here: This year we learned that it's possible to start a season 1-11 and be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament.
"The thing I remember most is just how fun it was", Arians said. "That was pretty cool, but it was really the atmosphere in general that was the best part".
The Demon Deacons are listed as the one-point favorite against the Kansas State Wildcats with a 152-point total in their NCAA Tournament First Four matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for Tuesday night. That's 80.6 percent. Reminded me of Eddie Sutton's 1992 Cowboys, who made 28 of 35 shots for an entire NCAA Tournament game against Tulane and ran a virtual layup line in Atlanta's now-gone Omni.
"I think we went into the Big 12 tournament and showed very well. Now we just have to walk away with a win and keep going".
Weber has referenced VCU's famous run from the opening games at UD Arena all the way to the Final Four.
Even with that trio, Wake Forest finished in 10th place in the ACC, and that prompted concern.
"We're kind of sweaty in the beginning, but then the name of the university popped out, we jumped", junior forward Dinos Mitoglou said. "Everybody had that sigh of relief once we found out that we made it". To be fair to the Mountaineers, they played several tough opponents in that stretch - West Virginia, Iowa State, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas and quality mid-majors in Bucknell, Lehigh and UT Arlington.
Meanwhile, Kansas State hasn't made the NCAA Tournament in either of the past two seasons, which snapped a streak of eight consecutive postseason berths for the program.
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Sophomore guard Barry Brown averages 11.7 points, sophomore guard Kamau Stokes is at 11.6 with a team-best 58 3-pointers, and senior forward D.J. Johnson averages 11.2 points while recording a team-best 49 blocked shots.
Both teams began the second half with the same intensity, scoring 24 points combined in the first four minutes.
The season finale did not match the intrigue Wake Forest had built up all season, but be sure to tune in next season, because life seems ready to get much brighter for Manning and his club.
Coach Bruce Weber's troops won their last two games to finish 8-10 in a Big 12 conference that sent six of its 10 members to the NCAA tournament.
Danny Manning was well aware he and his Wake Forest squad were going to sweat out Selection Sunday. Kansas State finished 8-10 in the Big 12 regular season and is 20-13 overall, with a laughable nonconference resume saved because it beat West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Baylor. We've played teams that go up and down, Kansas. They should be excited.
Let's just call it like it is: The Deacons are in, and they have a chance on the court to prove whether they're better than their 11th seed or not. "They've come in every day with great attitude, great energy, and we continued to improve throughout the season".
Wake Forest is making its 23rd all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas State is in the tournament for the first time in three years.