K-State Wildcats vs. Montana State Bobcats: NCAA Tournament game time, TV, prediction

THE DETAILS

When: 8:40 p.m. Friday

Where: Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

TV: CBS

Radio: KCSP (610 AM) in Kansas City, KKGQ (92.3 FM) in Wichita

Betting line: K-State by 8.5

Over/Under: 139.5

STARTING LINEUPS

P

No.

Montana State

Ht.

Yr.

PPG

F

13

Jubrile Belo

6-9

Sr.

13.0

G

0

Caleb Fuller

6-5

Sr.

6.8

G

21

RaeQuan Battle

6-5

Jr.

17.4

G

11

Tyler Patterson

6-8

Jr.

5.1

G

10

Darius Brown

6-2

Jr.

9.1

P

No.

Kansas State

Ht.

Yr.

PPG

F

35

Nae’Qwan Tomlin

6-10

Jr.

10.2

F

11

Keyontae Johnson

6-6

Sr.

17.7

G

13

Desi Sills

6-2

Sr.

8.7

G

5

Cam Carter

6-3

So.

6.4

G

1

Markquis Nowell

5-8

Sr.

16.8

About Montana State (25-9):

The Bobcats earned their way into March Madness by winning the Big Sky Tournament with wins over Northern Colorado, Weber State and Northern Arizona. They made it to the NCAA Tournament last year under coach Danny Sprinkle but suffered a lopsided loss against Texas Tech in the opening round. RaeQuan Battle is Montana State’s leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game. Jubrile Belo is the team’s leading rebounder with 6.1 boards per game.

About Kansas State (23-9):

The Wildcats are coming off a pair of losses against West Virginia and TCU. K-State turned the ball over 20 times in both of those defeats and will look to take better care of the ball against Montana State on Friday. This is the Wildcats’ first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2019, but three K-State players have logged minutes in the Big Dance before — David N’Guessan, Keyontae Johnson and Desi Sills. Markquis Nowell and Johnson were both named third-team All-Americans earlier this week.

Prediction

Montana State is a popular upset pick with some experts heading into this game, because the Bobcats do many things that tend to give the Wildcats problems.

The Big Sky Tournament champions force turnovers on 20.1% of their defensive possessions, shoot 52.4% from two-point range and get to the free-throw line 23.5 times per game.

Three of their biggest strengths are three of K-State’s biggest weaknesses.

You could call Montana State a poor man’s version of Texas Tech or West Virginia, a pair of teams that recently handled K-State some humbling losses. RaeQuan Battle, a transfer from Washington, is a high-level scorer. Jubrile Belo and Caleb Fuller form a strong frontcourt. And the Bobcats have lots of long, athletic defenders.

This is a less than desirable matchup for the Wildcats, at least on paper.

But I’m going to look past all that and pick K-State to win and cover the 8 1/2-point spread in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Why? Because the impressive stats that Montana State has put up this season have come against inferior competition.

Every time the Bobcats have tested themselves against teams from power conferences they tend to lose badly. Danny Sprinkle hasn’t led Montana State to a single win over a P6 team since he took over as coach. His last three came by ugly margins — 81-51 at Oregon, 85-64 at Arizona and 97-62 against Texas Tech.

That final defeat came in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

This feels like a game where K-State can use its talent advantage to simply out-athlete Montana State.

For K-State, the only real concern is turning the ball over. If the Wildcats give the ball away 20 times again, then they will be in trouble, especially if the Bobcats can turn those turnovers into cheap transition points. But if Markquis Nowell plays a good game and K-State limits its turnovers to 15 or below it should win comfortably.

K-State 77, Montana State 64

Last game prediction: K-State 78, TCU 77 (Actual: TCU 80, K-State 67).

Season record: 22-10.

Season record against the spread: 16-16.