BOZICH: Can 3 Stars (Kansas State) really play with 5 Stars (Kentucky) in Sweet Sixteen?
Can a team of 3-star recruits beat a team built on mostly 5-star recruits in the NCAA Tournament? Kentucky has a king-sized talent advantage on Kansas State in their Sweet 16 matchup.
ATLANTA (WDRB) -- Wednesday is a day to talk in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Thursday is a day to play (although sources say some guys prefer to talk while they dribble and defend).
That said, I plan to file a series of postcards from Philips Arena, where Kentucky (2:40 p.m.) and Kansas State (11:30 a.m.) had practice time Wednesday and will play Thursday around 9:40 p.m.
I'll begin where every reasonable basketball coach says the season begins -- with recruiting.
The recruiting numbers have already declared a winner, and (surprise, surprise) it's Kentucky.
Tip your cap to Kansas State coach Bruce Weber. Odds are that Kentucky did not invest postage pursuing anybody on Weber's roster.
I asked Barry Brown and Dean Wade, K-State's top two scorers, if either received a post-card, phone call or text message from Kentucky during the recruiting process.
"Never," Brown said. "Never."
"I did not," Wade said.
According to Scout.com, Kansas State is without a 5-star prospect on its roster.
Kentucky has eight (including the injured Jarrod Vanderbilt).
According to Scout.com, Kansas State is without a 4-star prospect on its roster.
Kentucky has two (including the injured Jemarl Baker).
I ran the numbers on Weber's players. They're in contention to lead the NCAA Tournament in 3-star recruits. I found 10 on this group of Wildcats.
No Kansas State players were ranked in the Top 125 in their classes by Scout.
Every Kentucky freshman and sophomore was ranked in the Top 75 in the classes of 2016 and 2017.
"We know what were capable of," Brown said. "They have 5-star guys. We have 3-star guys. And here we are in the same position. It's not really anything to be sad about or mad about."
"Rankings don't really mean anything," Wade said. "Look at Loyola, they're an 11 seed and playing great right now. It doesn't matter. Rankings don't matter. We're all basketball players. We've just got to come out and play basketball.
"They're longer than us. They're athletic. They're very talented. We've just got to come out and play disciplined basketball and I think we'll be all right."
The best player on Weber's roster is Wade. He is 6 feet 10 but does his best work away from the basket. He made 44 percent of his three-point shots this season, but Wade has missed K-State's last three games with a tender foot.
His foot and his jump shot looked healthy Wednesday morning as Kansas State practiced at Philips Arena. He'll be an interesting matchup against Kentucky, considering Weber prefers to play four guards.
According to rivals.com, another recruiting website, these are the other programs that pursued Wade from St. John (Kansas) High School -- Boise State, Creighton, Evansville and Iowa.
Brown is K-State's top guard and second-leading scorer. More programs got excited about him. Brown was recruited by Wichita State, Texas A&M and Providence.
He was also pursued by Florida International, Florida Gulf Coast and North Florida. That has never been considered Kentucky's end of the pool.
Oh, Scout ranked Brown No. 250 in the Class of 2015.
Where did the rest of Weber's top players rank in their senior classes?
Guard Cartier Diarra -- No. 255; Guard Kamau Stokes -- No. 301; Guard Xavier Sneed -- No. 144 and forward Makol Mawien -- No. 160.
These are guys who were recruited by Delaware, Mount St. Mary's, Duquesne and Saint Louis, with an assorted push from Illinois, Minnesota and Cincinnati thrown in.
Put it this way: There are no seniors in Kansas State's rotation -- and nobody is going to ask his guys if they plan to return for the 2018-19 season after the game.
If this tournament has proven anything, it is that you can win without a string of Top 50 or Top 100 players. See Nevada, Loyola (Chicago), Texas Tech and others for details and celebration photos.
But as one coach told me while analyzing the game, there is not a player in Weber's rotation who would start for John Calipari.
"If there was a talent differential, I don't think we would be here, Brown said.
"We really are a really good team, contrary to what other people believe," Wade said.
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