Tournament Tuesday

An audible "We Own Texas" chant in Austin was just about the only thing missing from an incredible win to cap off an incredible two-week stretch.

Whether you want to credit the new offense, the improved leadership/play of Jacob Pullen, the maturity of Shane Southwell/Will Spradling or even the absence of certain big men with character/confidence issues, there's no doubt this team has turned over a new leaf. I would vote for all of the above, with Pullen's resurgence as reason #1.

*Tournament Tuesday is a weekly feature from my fantake blog, Ahearn Alley. Click here to see previous installations.

 

Some fun facts to make you sound smart after last night's big upset:

• Kansas State basketball has now won 4 of its last 6 against Texas, including three in a row in Austin.

• The football team has won three in a row against Texas and 5 of 7 since 1998.

• It's the first time KSU has beaten two top ten teams in the same season since 1989-90. (h/t Cole Manbeck)

• Monday was K-State's first win over a top 10 team on the road since 1994. (h/t Josh Kinder)

• K-State is one of 17 BCS conference teams to post a five-game conference winning streak this season. Of those teams, only UCLA and Alabama are not in the top 20 in this week's coaches poll.

• K-State is one of four teams to have beaten two different teams (BYU beating SDSU twice doesn't count) currently ranked in the top 10 this season. Only the Wildcats got one of those wins on the road. In fact, teams in the top ten have a combined four losses at home, and the other three were at the hands of fellow top 10 teams (UT @ KU, BYU @ SDSU and ND @ PIT).

Needless to say, this team is not just going to be playing in the tournament, but they're emerging as one of the teams no one is going to want to see in March. More after the jump.

Current Status: NCAA LOCK

I probably would not have believed you if you'd have told me that we'd be here when I posted the first Tournament Tuesday one month ago. Incidentally, that was the day before K-State started to turn things around. Do I get any credit? Either way, now that K-State has probably the best pair of signature wins in the country, the Wildcats are just playing for a seed.

Considering K-State's RPI is now 21 (according to realtimerpi.com), and the Wildcats are virtually guaranteed to be in the top 25 provided they beat Iowa State on Senior Day. As long as that happens, it seems like a 6 seed is the worst K-State could get at this point. The Wildcats averaged an 8 seed and were in all 71 brackets of the Bracket Project's matrix, and that was before the Texas game. Lunardi also hasn't updated yet and has Kansas State as an 8 seed. K-State should also get a first-round bye in the Big 12 tourney and a four or five seed is certainly not out of the question, as long as the Wildcats make it to Friday in Kansas City.

Last week:

The Wildcats proved they are not Missouri with three impressive wins, two of which came on the road. Jacob Pullen continues to dominate, even though last night was the first time he didn't score 21 or shoot at least 40% from three since the loss at Colorado.

The defense has been excellent, but it's clearly the offense that has been the major force in the turnaround for Kansas State. After struggling through a poor shooting day at Nebraska, the Wildcats shot at least 50% against both Missouri and Texas. That would have been unthinkable a month ago.

Curtis Kelly appears to be making another late-season surge, although it still seems kind of comical that people thought he would be a First Team All-Big 12 performer.

Although Pullen seems to have finally figured out the senior leadership role with his play and his interactions with teammates, I think Kelly's still got a little ways to go, particularly on the latter. On the plus side, he's not playing like Jamar Samuels did last night. Yikes.

This week:

On paper, Muammar el-Qaddafi has a better chance of staying in power than Iowa State does of winning on Senior Night. But I suppose stranger things have happened. Plus, the last four Kansas State and Iowa State games have been decided by four points. At least the 'Cats won three of those, but it's time for that nonsense to end.

The game could make a difference in NCAA seeding and almost certainly will determine whether K-State plays Wednesday in Kansas City and for what it's worth, at 15-14, Iowa State could be playing for an NIT or CBI bid. Plus, the Cyclones have lost eight games by six or less, and that doesn't count a 92-83 OT loss in Stillwater. The point is one K-State should know well from its Fake Paddy's Day loss last season....don't sleep on Iowa State. 

The fifth Big 12 spot:

Obviously, with K-State as a lock, this section would be more accurately titled "the sixth Big 12 spot." But unlike Baylor, I'm all about consistency, so K-State gets to stay here at the #1 spot, where it has been in every edition of this feature. Also, this is a K-State blog, so not having them here would be kind of like having an Oscars without Randy Newman

It was quite an exciting week in the Big 12, in case you weren't paying attention. Even though I think the Huskers are done, I'm leaving Nebraska in just because Joe Lunardi has them in his next four out (with Wichita St. Huh? Is the bubble really that bad?).

Also, I have to begrudgingly welcome Colorado back into the discussion after its stunning comeback against Texas. On the plus side, no one will consider calling K-State's two losses to the Buffs "bad losses" any more, even if those of us that watched the games know better. Most of the credit goes to Alec Burks. He probably won't get much consideration for Big 12 Player of the Year, but am I crazy to think he could be the best NBA prospect the league has to offer right now? If he can elevate his defense, he could be an excellent starting 2 or maybe even 3 in the league.

Recall that quality wins are vs. RPI 1-50 (according to dailyrpi.com) and head-to-head is obviously against the other teams on this list. Bad losses are vs. RPI 100+

1. Kansas State (20-9, 8-6, RPI #21)
Quality wins: 3 (vs. Missouri RPI #28, vs. Kansas RPI #2, @ Texas RPI #13)
Bad losses: 0
Strength of Schedule: 6
Road/neutral wins: 5 (vs. Gonzaga in KC, @ Washington St. @ Loyola (IL), @ Iowa St., @ Nebraska, @ Texas)
Head-to-head record: 2-2

2. Baylor (18-10, 7-7, RPI #75)
Quality wins: 2 (vs. Texas A&M RPI, @ Texas A&M)
Bad losses: 3 (@ Iowa St. RPI #137, @ Oklahoma RPI #134, vs. Texas Tech RPI #159)
SOS: 51
Road/neutral wins: 2 (@ Texas Tech, @ Texas A&M)
Head-to-head record: 2-1

3. Colorado (18-11, 7-7, RPI #77)
Quality wins: 4 (vs. Missouri RPI #28, @ Kansas State RPI #21, vs. Kansas State, vs. Texas RPI #13)
Bad losses: 2 (@ San Francisco RPI #118, vs. Iowa State RPI #137 @ Oklahoma RPI #134)
SOS: 73
Road/neutral wins: 2 (@ Texas Tech, @ Texas A&M)
Head-to-head record: 2-1

4. Nebraska (18-10, 6-8, RPI #80)
Quality wins: 2 (vs. Texas A&M RPI #30, vs. Texas RPI #13)
Bad losses: 2 (vs. Davidson in San Juan RPI #154, @ Texas Tech RPI #159)
SOS: 80
Road/neutral wins: 1 (vs. Hofstra in San Juan)
Head-to-head record: 1-2

It really seems like Colorado should have more bad losses, but it turns out some nonconference losses to the likes of Harvard, Georgia and New Mexico aren't as bad as they sound. As a result of that plus the K-State wins getting a lot better recently, Colorado's resume actually looks as good as or maybe better than Baylor's on paper.

It's been mentioned in several posts before on this site, but Colorado has a great chance to go 9-7 and grab the fifth seed (fourth before the glorious events of last night). If they do that and take care of business against Iowa St., the Buffs are probably in. I'm not just saying that in the hopes that they don't play hard against K-State on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Baylor continues to do its best Tennessee impression, without the quality wins. Last week the Bears looked awful at Missouri (as a lot of teams do) but then turned in possibly their best defensive performance of the season to beat an overrated Texas A&M team.

This week, the Bears travel to Stillwater to face an OSU team that has only lost at home twice this season. That game will be followed by a matchup with Texas in Waco. Baylor probably needs to win one of those or pull an upset in the Big 12 quarters to feel good.

For the first time all season, it appears I overestimated Nebraska last week when I observed that their last four games were "winnable." I figured they would lose two, but now they're in serious danger of losing all four. Even if the Huskers win both this week, they might need a win in the Big 12 quarters to go dancing.

What K-State needs to do to make the NCAAs

Here's the remaining schedule:
3/5: vs. Iowa State
3/9-3/12: Big 12 tournament at the beautiful Sprint Center in Kansas City

Show up at every game (and I mean this only in the most literal sense) and avoid some sort of egregious NCAA violation. That's about it.

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