Reno — Kansas State, 5-2 — Johnson, the Big 12 Player of the Year, finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and six assists as Kansas State won its fifth straight.
Reno coach Johnathan Johnson said Johnson, a former Missouri coach, took a year off from coaching to take care of his family.
He coached Kansas State from 2005-07.
Johnson’s Reno team lost its first three games but finished with a 25-7 mark and advanced to the Big Dance for the first time since 2009.
The Jayhawks also won the last of their three Big 12 titles.
Reon beat Tulsa 71-69 on Saturday, its third consecutive victory.
“That’s a big thing for us,” Johnson said.
“This was the biggest, hardest, most physical game we’ve played, and I’m sure we’ll be able to beat them again.
That’s something we’ve got to continue to work on.”
Reon had been without star forward Brandon Rush, who has a torn ACL and sprained MCL in his right knee.
Johnson said the Jayhawks had to replace Rush, and it’s likely that his return won’t come until after this season.
The No. 1 seed in the West is in a battle with No. 5 Utah for second place in the Big Ten.
Utah (18-6, 9-4) won its second straight and has the tiebreaker over No. 2 Kansas State (16-7, 10-4).
Johnson said he believes Utah’s defense will be tougher than Kansas State’s offense.
“They’ll be a little more athletic,” Johnson added.
“And I don’t think we’re gonna have that big of an advantage.
I think we’ll have to be more aggressive.”
Kansas State has won five straight games at home.
“We have to play our hearts out,” Johnson told reporters after the game.
“Our guys are playing great.
They’re making shots.
They can handle the ball.
It’s been a great, great week for us.”
The Jayhawk offense is averaging more than 80 points per game and is shooting 45.7 percent from the field.
Johnson and Reon coach Jeff Withey have done a good job of building trust with players.
“I think everybody understands that we’re playing in a league that’s all about scoring, so we’re not going to do anything stupid,” Johnson noted.
“Just go out there and play your game, but understand that we have a lot of guys that are playing better than they have in the past.”
The Big 12 season opens Monday against No. 8 Utah State.
The teams are 2-0 on the season and have played all five games.
Kansas State plays its first nonconference game on Saturday at Texas Tech.