Iowa State Preview: Let's Talk NCAA Seeding

COLUMBIA, MO - FEBRUARY 21: Angel Rodriguez #13 and Jamar Samuels #32 of the Kansas State Wildcats smile as the Wildcats defeat the Missouri Tigers to win the game on February 21, 2012 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

I agree with TB that it's very confusing why SI thinks Kansas State is still on the bubble. USA Today said K-State is "all but a lock," but still put the 'Cats on the bubble without any real explanation.

ESPN's Eamonn Brennan (my personal favorite) will put out his Bubble Watch later today, so I'll be interested to see what he has to say.

Update: Eamonn has moved K-State into lock status. I knew I liked that guy.

But I'm not afraid to write in a blog post what many have tweeted already. Kansas State is a lock for the NCAA tournament.

To be completely honest, I think KSU could lose every remaining game except for Senior Day vs. OSU (and if the 'Cats blow that, they don't deserve to go dancing) and still make the field of 68, though this is not a theory I want to see tested.

In fact, I told TB around this time last week that I would do some sort of K-State-centric Bubble Watch post. Then Baylor and Mizzou happened, and I decided it would be a much better use of my time to start thinking about where K-State will wind up in this year's bracket.

I don't want to get irrationally optimistic and start thinking about what would happen if K-State were to win out, though that's a possibility you can' t rule out when your team beats two top 10 opponents on the road in two weeks.

So if we put K-State's ceiling at four straight wins then a loss to Kansas in the Big 12 semis, I think we end up with a 6 seed, at best.

For my rationale and a preview of a dangerous, important game against Iowa State, click the jump.

The easiest way to start here is to identify the teams that K-State is simply not going to pass in the next two weeks, unless some really, really weird things happen. In my mind, there are 14 teams in this group, plus maybe Wisconsin if I didn't hate them and Bo Ryan so damn much.

Here's the list: Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri (it's OK to laugh a little), Baylor, Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Ohio State, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Temple, and Florida State.

You'll note that I left out any mid-majors (unless you count Temple) because it's always harder to predict what the committee will do with them and one loss can be so much more painful.

I also didn't include Florida, Marquette, and Indiana because all three have relatively tough schedules remaining that leave open the small possibility of a late-season collapse.

So if you put K-State at 15, that would mean a 4 seed, which clearly isn't going to happen. Some teams around K-State's level are going to finish strong, and others might even get overseeded.

I think it's safe to say at least 2 or 3 of the 4-6 mid-majors ahead of K-State right now (Wichita State, SDSU, UNLV, New Mexico, St. Mary's, Murray State) are going to stay that way, as some of them may not even lose from here on out. Also, someone has to win that Florida-Vandy game (best-case scenario is Vandy wins then loses at Tennessee) and there's undoubtedly going to be at least two power conference schools that will remain ahead of K-State.

In other words, I think you'll get no fewer than six other teams ahead of the Wildcats, even if we're still assuming that K-State adds 4-5 more wins to its resume, including two RPI top 50 wins. That leaves us with 20 total, and puts K-State on the six-seed line in this best-case scenario.

Actually, I think there may be a rule in the NCAA by-laws that says any team that loses twice to a team likely to finish under .500 cannot receive a top 5 seed, so this seems about right.

I don't want to spend as much time on the worst-case, but let's for a moment imagine that KSU loses one of its next two games and then falls to Iowa State or possibly Baylor on Thursday in KC.*

That would put the 'Cats at 21-10 overall and with some other solid teams finishing strong, I think it's possible, though unlikely, that KSU could drop to a 9 or even a 10.

*Great news, everyone! It is officially impossible that Kansas State would play OU again before the Big 12 semifinals, and for even that to occur the Sooners would have to beat Kansas in the quarters. Thank goodness.

***

It seems basically inevitable at this point that Kansas State and Iowa State will be meeting for a third time in Kansas City. The only real question remaining is what color jerseys the teams will be wearing.

If K-State takes care of business on Saturday, the answer should be white (unless they wear those stupid gray unis). But as we learned in Ames, that won't be easy.

If K-State basketball is frustrating to watch because it can beat anyone or derp it up against anybody just about any night, then Iowa State is virtually the opposite. The Cyclones do have one nice win against Kansas and a puzzling loss at Oklahoma State, but otherwise they've been very predictable.

This is a team in desperate need of a signature road win to show the Selection Committee, and their last chances are coming in Manhattan and Columbia.

There's not an overwhelming amount of talent on this team, but Royce White is one of the best players in the league. He had 22 and 8, including a kind of important shot, in Ames and he's very capable of doing that again. Jamar needs to bring his 'A' game defensively and the other guys had better be ready to help.

For the rest of the Cyclones, the biggest thing is guarding the three. Unfortunately, this is a weapon that can prevent blowouts and since they didn't do much from beyond the arc against KSU the first time, I'm just hoping they're not due the second time around.

Will Spradling is capable of doing a better job of stopping the penetration of Scott Christopherson, but I've learned never to trust W. Melvin Ejim still worries me a little inside, but keep him out of the paint and put a body on him, and things should be fine.

Since ISU's entire offense runs through White (he often brings the ball up the court, despite being 6-8) it seems like a no-brainer to attack him as much as possible on the offensive end, where he does occasionally get into foul trouble. Jamar has been playing very well lately, and if that continues, good things can happen.

It's pretty obvious by now, but Angel's play is the biggest X-factor for K-State. If he can stay in the game, get into the lane, and not turn the ball over too much, good things will happen. When you add a good outside shot to the mix, he can be awesome.

There's no doubt Kansas State should win this game, but I can't shake the feeling that this team seems ripe for a letdown after two really impressive road victories. Plus, games against Iowa State are never easy.

Five of the last six games between KSU and ISU have been decided by four points or less, so here's hoping the OOD crowd can provide the energy necessary for the 'Cats to pull out a win.

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