K-State Wildcats Basketball: Full Hall of Fame Classic field

A juicy coaching matchup could await the Kansas State men’s basketball team when the Wildcats head to Kansas City in November to play in the Hall of Fame Classic at T-Mobile Center.

The tournament announced its complete field on Wednesday. It consists of K-State, Arkansas, Cincinnati … and Illinois.

Though no pairings have been announced, many K-State fans will be interested in a potential game between the Wildcats and the Illini.

Illinois is currently coached by Brad Underwood, a former K-State player and assistant who remains very popular among purple-clad fans. Many have suggested he would be an ideal replacement for Bruce Weber whenever his time with the Wildcats comes to an end.

Weber also has history with Illinois, as he coached there for nine seasons before taking the K-State job in 2012. Weber won 210 games during his time there, highlighted by an appearance in the national championship game in 2005.

Another K-State/Illinois connection: Transfer guard Mark Smith began his college basketball career at Illinois and will end it at K-State.

In a previous interview about potentially facing his old team, Weber said it will be fun to see some old friends in Kansas City. But if K-State happens to play Illinois in the tournament, his focus will be entirely on winning after opening tip just like at any other game.

Odds are good K-State and Illinois won’t be on the same side of the bracket, meaning that they will only meet in the final round of the event in either the consolation or championship game.

Weber said he will specifically request for K-State to open against Arkansas or Cincinnati.

K-State was the first team of the four to accept an invitation to the Hall of Fame Classic, which will be played on November 22 and 23.

This will be the third time that K-State has participated in the event. It finished second to North Carolina in 2015 and second to Duke in 2010. It will be the first tournament appearance for all three of the other teams.

“We are excited about playing in the Hall of Fame Classic again and hopefully playing in front of a purple-packed T-Mobile Center,” Weber said in a release Wednesday. “Arkansas and Illinois should be preseason Top 20 teams and Cincinnati always has a quality team, so it will be one of the top preseason tournaments next season.

Arkansas is coming off a 25-win season in which the Razorbacks advanced to the Elite Eight under coach Eric Musselman.

Illinois was a No. 1 seed in this past season’s NCAA Tournament. The Illini won 24 games, but lost in the Round of 32.

They both should be ranked in the preseason top 25 polls.

Cincinnati won 12 games last season and recently switched coaches to Wes Miller, who was previously at North Carolina-Greensboro.

That type of competition will put K-State to an early test next season as the Wildcats try to prove they can rebound from a nine-win season with four returning starters and the addition of three potential impact transfers.

Ticket sales for the tournament will be determined at a later date.

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Kellis Robinett covers Kansas State athletics for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. A winner of more than a dozen national writing awards, he lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children.