Tournament Tuesday: And then there were three

USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Kansas have separated themselves at the top heading into the stretch run.

I don't have a lot of time today, so this is going to be a rather quick look at the chances of the remaining contenders for the Big 12 crown and what they need to do to win, along with the regular glance at K-State's tourney status. It should go without saying that all three contenders can't afford a derp against the bottom 4 teams, so that won't be mentioned.

Kansas State

Remaining schedule: @ UT, vs. TT, @ BU, vs. TCU, @ OSU

Regrettably, Kansas State is the only team that doesn't control its own destiny as far as a #1 seed. If KU wins out, there's nothing the 'Cats can do about it.

It also doesn't help that Baylor and OSU are both on the road, though at least K-State beat both of them in Manhattan. The game against the Cowboys is obviously particularly concerning, and I think it's safe to say Kansas State needs Rodney McGruder to re-discover his outside shot in order for the 'Cats to run the table, which is probably their only chance to win the title outright and get the top seed.

Oklahoma State

Remaining schedule: vs. KU, @ WV, @ TCU, vs. UT, @ ISU, vs. KSU

If we learned anything last night, it was that West Virginia is not capable of beating Oklahoma State at home barring some sort of crazy happening. Sorry, guys, but anyone who watched that ugly foul-fest knows what I'm talking about.

OSU undoubtedly has the toughest home schedule left, and they have looked very vulnerable in their last two games at Gallagher-Iba, which were both overtime victories. You have to figure the luck they've found during this impressive 7-game win streak is going to run out sometime, and certainly that visit to Ames won't be an easy one.

The Cowboys' guard play has been phenomenal, but there is a lot of youth in that backcourt, beginning with freshman point guard Marcus Smart. It will be very interesting to see if they can handle all the pressure, and you have to wonder how they would respond to a home loss against Kansas on Wednesday.

Kansas

Remaining schedule: @ OSU, vs. TCU, @ ISU, vs. WV, vs. TT, @ BU

Like it or not, Kansas is the favorite to win thing until proven otherwise. The Jayhawks of course have the huge two wins over Kansas State, and they could all but lock up their ninth straight title by next weekend if they take care of business in the next three games.

Of course, that's no small task, especially with the way the Cowboys are playing right now. Remember, they're the only team to beat Kansas when the Jayhawks offensive game was clicking on all cylinders, and the only team to win in Allen Fieldhouse in quite a while.

That also means, naturally, that KU will be seeking revenge, and if Nadir Tharpe can have half the game he had against KSU in Lawrence, the Jayhawks should have a good chance. Kansas has the advantage of probably the most talented player in the conference in the form of Ben McLemore, and the unusual senior leadership of this Jayhawk team shouldn't be discounted down the stretch. Expect KU to beat Baylor by at least 20 on Senior Night. rather easily, even if it is in Waco.

Current NCAA status: Lock

Butler's loss to Charlotte sure was a nice surprise, and Minnesota's continued collapse in the form of a 21-point loss to a surging Iowa team can only help K-State. Most importantly, the 'Cats got two convincing home wins against inferior but somewhat dangerous opponents to solidify the case for a top 4 seed and a trip to Kansas City.

Even Joe Lunardi finally put the 'Cats at the Sprint Center in his latest bracketology, which matches K-State up with Akron and 5-seed Butler. Again, I like the potential matchup with Indiana in the Sweet 16, though facing them in Indianapolis would be a major disadvantage.

Andy Glockner does the same, pitting the Wildcats as a 4-seed in KC against a very disciplined and dangerous Belmont team. That would scare me if Frank was still coaching, but I'm confident Bruce Weber will have a better chance of making sure K-State doesn't squander a distinct talent advantage, even if the upset potential might not be quite as high.

Kansas State remains on the four-seed line in the latest Bracket Project matrix, alongside Georgetown, Marquette and Butler (surely because some brackets haven't been updated since Saturday). Oklahoma State is currently the top 5 seed in that matrix, while Kansas is the worst 2.

The latest RPI numbers have K-State all the way up to 19th, though again we see Butler remaining ahead of Kansas State. But this week's RPI complaint comes up near the top, where New Mexico is #3.

Now, don't get me wrong, the Lobos are a good team, and the Mountain West is tough, but they have lost 4 and their best nonconference win was at unranked Cincinnati. They also lost at home to South Dakota State (I know, Jon, Nate Wolters) and at Saint Louis. I expect a lot more from my #3 team.

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