CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kansas State has survived — and advanced — without Dean Wade in this NCAA Tournament, beating Creighton and Maryland-Baltimore County this week at the Spectrum Center to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in eight years.

But the Wildcats would prefer to have their leading scorer and best all-round player back in the starting lineup when they play Kentucky on Thursday in Atlanta.

For now, Wade is confident that will happen.

“I am like 98 percent sure I will play. I don’t know if they can keep me out of this one. This is big time,” Wade said. “I’m excited. It gives me another couple of days to heal. I am starting to feel a lot better. My day-by-day gets a lot better. This gives me a few more days to heal and recover.”

Wade, a 6-foot-10 all-Big 12 selection, averaged 16.5 points in the regular season. But he has missed K-State’s last three games, watching both NCAA Tournament victories from the bench.

He warmed up for both games and was deemed available in case of emergency. But he never saw any action.

K-State could certainly use Wade against Kentucky, which features a much bigger frontcourt than either Creighton or UMBC.

“It would be nice if, God willing, Dean is able to come in and help us,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We have talked about it. He has made some improvement and he is in a little better state of mind. We will see what happens.”