Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin didn't seem thrilled that his team was being shipped across the country to open the NCAA Tournament, but Kansas State traveled an even tougher road to their first-round South Regional game Friday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif.
Cronin offered a subdued response after the tournament bracket was unveiled Sunday. The sixth-seeded Bearcats (29-5) were sent to Sacramento to await the winner of a First Four game between No. 11 seeds Kansas State (21-13) and Wake Forest, a game the Wildcats won 95-88.
Cincinnati is appearing in its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament and opening on the West Coast for the third time in four years. The team's website noted that the driving distance from Cincinnati's home arena to the Golden 1 Center is 2,299.4 miles. Cronin declined to comment on his team's seeding and the selection committee's decision to send the Bearcats to California.
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"I'm just gonna focus on basketball," Cronin said. "We've had a great year and I'm gonna focus on coaching my team -- try to go out there and win two games in our third trip to the West Coast in the last four years in the NCAA Tournament."
Cronin elaborated a little, saying he feels bad for parents who've had to travel long distances to see their sons play in the tournament.
"Here's the downside, and this is not just for us," Cronin said. "Troy Caupain, three of four years, he and Kevin Johnson and Zack Tobler go to the NCAA Tournament. They're in Spokane twice and Sacramento once. It's really not easy for their families. Other than that, and that's a big thing, we don't believe in excuses. That won't be talked about at all on our end."
Jacob Evans leads Cincinnati in scoring at 13.7 points per game. Kyle Washington averages 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Kansas State won four of its last five games with a win over Baylor and a one-point loss to West Virginia. Senior forward Wesley Iwundu leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Barry Brown, sophomore guard Kamau Stokes and senior forward D.J. Johnson all average just over 11 points per game.
The Wildcats had to travel 700 miles east to beat Wake Forest in a First Four game Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. They now have to travel 2,300 miles west to Sacramento.
"Obviously it's been a hectic 24 hours after seeing our name pop up on the TV," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "But we're just really excited to be here to be part of it."
Iwundu had 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds against Wake Forest. Stokes scored 22. Johnson had 18 points and six rebounds.
"I really do believe we belong in the tournament," Weber said. "I think we've shown that we can compete with anybody in the country. We've beaten some of the top teams, and we're just excited to be part of it. I think our guys will be ready to play."