The Kansas State Wildcats played their first two games of the Fort Myers Tipoff without leaving home.
But victories each of the past two weeks against Monmouth and Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Bramlage Coliseum were tournament games in name only and mere formalities before the four-team championship round in Florida.
The Wildcats (4-0) now head to Fort Myers and Suncoast Credit Union Arena, where they will face Pittsburgh (4-2) at 5 p.m. Monday in a semifinal, then play either Bradley or Northwestern in the final round on Wednesday.
K-State ended an early-season tournament drought last year by winning the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to senior guard Xavier Sneed, that simply whetted their appetite for another.
"I'm looking forward to getting another championship," said Sneed, who leads the team in scoring at 16 points per game and ranks second in rebounding at 5.8. "That's one of our goals to try to check off our list, to win a championship.
"But it starts with the first game against Pitt."
Pitt, which also is coming off victories over Monmouth and Pine Blue, has been up and down through its first six games. The Panthers opened with an impressive 63-61 victory over Florida State, lost to Nicholls (75-70), beat Robert Morris (71-57) and fell 68-53 to West Virginia.
K-State passed its biggest test with a 60-56 overtime road victory at UNLV after knocking off North Dakota State at home in the season opener. Now it's time for the Wildcats to try their luck on a neutral court against a Power 5 opponent.
"We've had a road game (and) now you've got a neutral game," K-State coach Bruce Weber said. "You've got an ACC team that, in a way they're new, but they have everyone back. So they were really new last year.
"They've played a pretty tough schedule already — Florida State and West Virginia — so we're going to have to come to play."
Pitt is coached by Jeff Capel, now in his second season after guiding the Panthers to a 14-19 overall record last year and a 3-15 mark in the ACC. Capel should be familiar to K-State fans after spending five years (2006-11) at Oklahoma.
The Panthers featuring a balanced offense with four starters averaging in double figures. Sophomore guard Trey McGowens averages 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds, junior guard Ryan Murphy 11.7 points, freshman forward Justin Champagnie 10.8 points and a team-high 5.7 rebounds and sophomore point guard Xavier Johnson 10.3 points and 5.2 assists.
Point guard Cartier Diarra is the only K-State player besides Sneed averaging in double figures with 12.5 points a game, while senior forward Makol Mawien adds 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Diarra's 27 assists (6.8 average) are the most in school history through the first four games.
Though three of their games have been at home, the trip to Las Vegas gave the Wildcats a taste of they'll be up against over the next three days.
"We've got to step up to the challenge," Sneed said. "We've already got that one road win for us, so we've got that under our belt and understand what it takes to be outside of Bramlage and just have a winning effort."