Kansas State, a surprise Elite Eight team a season ago, started the season in the top 10 but found itself only 10-4 (0-2 Big 12), out of the polls and missing injured star Dean Wade.
Good thing conference play offers a second chance to turn around a season.
Both the Gamecocks and Wildcats continued their climbs with upset wins on Tuesday, as South Carolina beat No. 16 Auburn 80-77 and K-State beat No. 14 Texas Tech, 58-45.
Suddenly, South Carolina is 10-8 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. Kansas State is 15-4 and now 5-2 in the Big 12. The Gamecocks are half a game out of first place in the SEC; K-State is tied with Kansas for first in the Big 12.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 23, 2019
Only a loss to LSU on Saturday kept South Carolina from winning seven in a row. In the win against Auburn, Chris Silva finished 11-for-12 from the field and made 10 of 11 foul shots to score 32 points — and he had 14 rebounds.
In the Big 12, K-State started conference play with losses to Texas and Texas Tech. Since then, the Wildcats’ five-game winning streak ran through wins against West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma, TCU and now the Red Raiders.
Dean Wade’s return has helped K-State’s comeback. Out with a foot injury since middle December, Wade has returned to boost the Wildcats.
He had only two points in 22 minutes against West Virginia before taking off for 20 points at Oklahoma and 16 against TCU. He then scored 13 against Texas Tech.
Last season, Wade played in only 8 minutes during Kansas State’s run to the Elite Eight after he sustained a stress fracture in his left foot.
This year, Wade’s return has K-State thinking another NCAA tournament run is coming.