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Coach K offers high praise for K-State guard Markquis Nowell and Jerome Tang

Kansas State will kick off the NCAA Tournament men’s Sweet 16 games on Thursday, and although the Wildcats may be betting underdogs, they’ve gained the attention of much of the country.

Guard Markquis Nowell’s huge game in K-State’s win over Kentucky on Sunday wowed former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

In the SiriusXM show, “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K,” Krzyzewski and co-host Chris Spatola talked about the Wildcats’ 75-69 win against Kentucky.

“To watch Kansas State and Kentucky, I thought both of them played so well,” Krzyzewski said. “Kentucky looked like they were in control. And Nowell, to me, his performance was the top performance individually. He actually willed his team to win that game.

“And when he made threes or made a big play, he wasn’t showing threes to the crowd or whatever. A couple times he just took the ball and put it down on the baseline (to say), ‘OK, now I’m gonna guard you.’ I loved it.”

Krzyzewski also was a big fan of Kansas State’s football-inspired inbounds play that was named for Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“I loved what they did and their coach, Jerome Tang, their baseline out of bounds full court, they had five guys out of bounds,” Krzyzewski said. “And I’m looking, I said, ‘That’s cool, man.’”

Krzyzewski later added that Nowell has been the most dynamic player in the tournament.

“They beat a Kentucky team that I thought played well and was playing well,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean, (Oscar) Tshiebwe had 25 rebounds the first game, he had 18 or so against Kansas State, but in the last four minutes of the game that kid just took over.”

It’s not only Krzyzewski that has praised the Wildcats this week. Here is what others were saying.

Earlier this week, Rich Eisen gave his Athlete of the Week award to Nowell and praised the Wildcats.

“The Big 12 champs in football put on the court a team a basketball program that was picked dead last in the Big 12,” Eisen said.

He added about Nowell: “What this guy does is at 5 foot 8 ... he’s the Deuce Vaughn of this team. ... The no-look passes make you jump off the couch including a no-look alley-oop right at the buzzer at the first half against Kentucky.”

Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab wrote about Sweet 16 betting trends.

This is an excerpt: “In terms of money bet, two other teams getting the most action are Kansas State +1.5 over Michigan State and Tennessee -5.5 over Florida Atlantic. Kansas State is the rare team to be a better seed than its opponent and also ranked higher at KenPom, yet still be an underdog.”

ESPN’s Jay Bilas previewed the Sweet 16 games on the “Outside Shots” podcast, and he sees the Wildcats winning Thursday against Michigan State.

“I tend to favor Kansas State just a bit in the game because of Nowell and (Keyontae) Johnson,” Bilas said.

CBS Sports’ Adam Schein also sees the Wildcats defeating the Spartans and praised Nowell.

The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore wrote a story with the headline, “At 5-foot-8, Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell stands atop the Sweet 16.”

Here is an excerpt: “Through two rounds, no player has made a bigger impact on the NCAA tournament than one of its smallest. Nowell has scored or assisted on 93 points — 24 more than the next-closest player in the tournament, according to ESPN. Only one other player since 1990 — Murray State’s Ja Morant in 2019 — totaled at least 20 assists and 40 points before the Sweet 16, according to CBS.

“Nowell’s 17 points, 14 assists and six rebounds powered the Wildcats’ breezy opening victory over Montana State. In the second round, with Kansas State trailing much of the game against Kentucky, Nowell scored 27 points, had nine assists and nabbed three steals, a display of will dappled with flourish. He swished step-back three-pointers at the end of the shot clock, zipped stylish no-look passes, bulled his way to the basket, drained 10 of 11 free throws and flexed his muscles after crucial plays.”