No. 15 Kansas State will welcome back one key player for their quarterfinal game Thursday against TCU in the Big 12 tournament, but another integral part of the team will be out, likely for the whole weekend.
Guard Cartier Diarra is expected to play after missing the last eight games with an injured hand. Head coach Bruce Weber said that Diarra probably wouldn't start.
The return of Diarra will help the Wildcats, who will be without first-team all-Big 12 forward Dean Wade. Wade injured his foot sometime during the regular-season finale against Oklahoma.
Before the injury, Wade scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Wildcats defeated the Sooners 68-53 on Saturday to clinch their first Big 12 championship since they shared the title with Kansas in 2013.
No one is quite sure when or how the injury occurred, but Weber is pretty sure that Wade won't play in the Big 12 tournament.
"I would anticipate that," Weber said following his team's Wednesday practice. "We're leaving it up to him and the team doctors. We've got to look out for the student-athlete."
Kansas State, the tournament's top seed, defeated eighth-seeded TCU twice by an average of 11 points this season, holding the Horned Frogs to their two lowest-scoring losses of the season.
"Kouat (Noi) didn't play in that game at their place," TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said, recalling his team's 65-55 loss on Jan. 19 in Manhattan, Kan. "It was a close game, (and) we had six guys. This time we will bring out seven.
"It's an opportunity to play the team that won the league and beat us twice. We think we are playing a little bit better."
On Wednesday, TCU raced out to an early 27-11 lead over Oklahoma State and led by as many as 21 points in the second half. But a late 16-0 run by the Cowboys gave them a 70-68 lead with 27 seconds to play. Desmond Bane hit a 3-pointer as the Horned Frogs regained the lead, then Alex Robinson hit two free throws to seal the victory.
TCU (20-12) was among the last four in in ESPN's most recent "bracketology" predictions. Dixon said he hopes the win over Oklahoma State was enough to seal a bid.
"(We had) 20 wins in the Big 12, the toughest conference in the country, and we played a tough non-conference schedule," he said. "So I would think so. But you never know what plays out in the other (conferences). With our conference clearly being the best, we've put ourselves in a good spot."
For Kansas State (24-7), this scenario is a replay of last year. Wade missed most of his team's action in the 2018 Big 12 tournament. He then played a total of eight minutes in the Wildcats' run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. Wade also missed six games during this regular season.
"Everyone else has to step up and get better," Wildcats guard Barry Brown said. "Dean is a passer, a scorer, a rebounder, a defender. We'll miss him. Everyone has to be a little bit better version of themselves.
"We'll be ready, because we've been doing that the entire year. There's no added pressure, there's nothing we're not used to. We'll come out and focus on that one team. Once we conquer that team, we'll move on to the next one."
Weber said having Diarra back will help.
"There's no doubt," he said. "He's been through this before. He was part of the run last year. The sad part is that right before he hurt his hand, he was playing the best ball of his career. Now, can he get that back quickly, we'll just have to see."
--Field Level Media