USA TODAY Sports
Until K-State suffers anything resembling a bad loss, they're still a lock for the NCAA tourney. In the meantime, there's a Big 12 race to be won.
I really was going to write this Monday night and have it post on the correct, but then this happened. So, after a miserably long day of real life, at least now I can include all the up-to-date bracket projections. But first, let's take a look at something more important.
Despite what their most delusional fans may tell you, Kansas' (hopefully temporary) awakening Monday night did not change the fact that the Jayhawks lost three straight games and we now have a Big 12 race. For serious. Before we break it down, let's take a moment to enjoy the fact that we lost to the Jayhawks and stayed (sort of) in first place, then look at the contenders' remaining schedules vs. each other.*
*I've noticed the folks over at the Smoking Musket generally do satire and sarcasm pretty well, so I can't tell if they're serious when they actually give a bit of credence to their idiot coach's statement that they could become a bubble team. As acknowledged by Country Roads, 3 straight wins over crap teams isn't impressing anyone.
The top 6 teams in the league are now 24-2 vs. the bottom 4, and as much fun as it was, one of those was perhaps the most confounding upset ever. That being said, WVU is actually 5-0 vs. the top 4 with 3 close losses, so they're clearly on their own in 5th place and will maybe have an NIT case if they can finish strong with 7 of 8 vs. the top 6. Should be interesting.
The Big 12 title race
@ OSU (2/20), vs. TCU (2/23), @ ISU (2/25), @ BU (3/9)
Kansas State (8-3)
vs. BU (2/16), @ BU (3/2), @ OSU (3/9)
Oklahoma State (7-3)
vs. OU (2/16), vs. KU (2/20), @ ISU (3/6), vs. KSU (3/9)
@OSU (2/16), vs. BU (2/23), vs. ISU(3/2)
Iowa State (6-4)
@ BU (2/20), vs. KU (2/25), @ OU (3/2), vs. OSU (3/6)
@ KSU (2/16), vs. ISU (2/20), @ OU (2/23), vs. KSU (3/2), vs. KU (3/9)
It's hard to give anyone a clear advantage, though I think we can all agree Baylor is probably in the most trouble, especially when you factor in that they still have both games left against West Virginia, easily the most dangerous of the bottom teams. The Bears would need an incredibly strong finish, and if we've learned anything about Scott Drew over the years, it's that his teams don't really improve a lot over the course of the season.
Oklahoma likely has the easiest remaining road, but they're also a game behind K-State, so I'd really put those two in just about a dead heat as far as schedules go. Obviously, that's great news for seeding purposes since the 'Cats won both games against the Sooners, but I'd rather take first place all alone.
OSU is the hottest team in the league and has made Gallagher-Iba a fearsome place to play again (the only loss there this season was by one to the Coaches' #3 team in the country), so they're definitely not to be counted out. As of right now, K-State's March 9 game in Stillwater has to be considered the single most likely game on the schedule to be a battle for the regular season title.
It's hard to take Iowa State or Baylor too seriously until they can get a road win, but the Cyclones have gotten very close and have their only road games left in Waco and Norman, by far the two most unimposing places. Fred Hoiberg knows what he's doing, so keep an eye on ISU if they can beat Baylor on February 20.
Make no mistake, it's definitely a down year for the Big 12 and I'm not sure if there's even an Elite 8 team in bunch if Kansas doesn't return to its December form. But the good news is the parity at the top should make for a very intriguing race and, perhaps more importantly, give the league a good shot at 6 NCAA tournament bids.
Current status: Lock
Despite the annual disaster in Lawrence, there's no doubt K-State's tourney stock at least stayed the same and possibly went up after the 'Cats sleepwalked through a win over Texas Tech and then defended Bramlage nicely against Iowa State. Meanwhile, Minnesota (twice), Creighton, North Carolina State, and Ohio State all lost, which certainly didn't hurt.
Joe Lunardi moved KSU up to a 4-seed in his latest Bracketology, but he still has them in San Jose for some reason, with 4-seed Ohio State getting the other KC pod. That doesn't make sense, but I sure wouldn't mind being in the top half of a bracket with Indiana and Pittsburgh.
Andy Glockner has always seemed much more rational (don't miss his excellent Bubble Watch), so it's no surprise he has the 'Cats as a 4-seed safely in Kansas City. In fact, he's got Ohio State as a potential second round matchup, though I think I'd rather avoid a Sweet 16 rematch with Florida.
Not surprisingly, then, K-State joins Ohio State, Butler and Pitt on the 4-seed line in the Bracket Matrix, which is surely a good sign. In case you were wondering, that has all 6 Big 12 teams in as at least an 11-seed.
The Wildcats moved up two spots to No. 22 in ESPN's College Basketball RPI, finally surpassing a Belmont team that would be lucky to snag an at-large bid if it doesn't win the Ohio Valley Conference. But this week's RPI complaint comes in the form of OU, which seems to be one spot ahead of a Kansas State team it lost to twice solely because of a much tougher nonconference schedule, despite the troubling fact that the Sooners got nothing particularly close to a quality win in those first two months.
Teams to root for this week
I'd like to think this feature worked last week, considering the teams I chose to lose went 4-7. Remember, no would-be massive upsets are included (despite TCU-Kansas) and the teams we want to lose are bolded. Games featuring two teams near KSU's seed line (i.e. Pittsburgh @ Marquette) are also not included, because there's hardly a net gain either way.
UNLV @ Air Force, 7 p.m.
Wisconsin* @ Minnesota, 6 p.m. ESPN
Louisville @ St. John's, 8 p.m. ESPN
Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State, 12:45 p.m. (regional Big 12 channel, probably)
Boise State @ New Mexico, 8 p.m.
Colorado State @ Air Force, 3 p.m.
Notre Dame @ Providence, 11 a.m.
Ohio State @ Wisconsin*, noon CBS
Minnesota @ Iowa, 1 p.m.
Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh, 6 p.m. ESPN