Tournament Tuesday: All hope is not lost

USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Kansas is probably going to win another Big 12 title and collect the #1 seed in Kansas City, but a trophy would still be huge, and there are some silver linings.

Last night, I was up in arms just as much as the rest of you (well, OK, I can't match Furnace's anti-KU/Big 12 ref intensity, but otherwise) about the outcome of that basketball game in Ames. More than anything, I feel for the Iowa State fans who have now endured losses to KU thanks to a banked-in 3 by Ben McLemore (not as lucky as Korie Lucious' 3 off an alley-oop pass last night, for the record) and perhaps the worst final 60 seconds of officiating this season, not to mention Elijah Johnson playing completely out of his mind.

Regardless of how it happened, though, the result is KU has a relatively easy path to the Big 12 title and a #1 seed, while Kansas State would probably need a difficult win in Stillwater just to share the honor. Of course, the wild card in all of this is Baylor, who gets both the Wildcats and Jayhawks at home in the final two weeks and has proven capable of either red-hot finishes or total collapses under Scott Drew.

The other game we can't forget about that could be vital to the Big 12 race if KU does slip up is Oklahoma State at Iowa State on March 6. Without a win in Ames (which clearly takes something very special this year) the Cowboys have no shot at a Big 12 title and could even potentially slip behind Oklahoma in the conference standings.*

Tiebreakers get rather complicated if head-to-head is tied, because then it comes down to how you did against the Big 12's top teams. Without going into the details, I believe OSU would win a tiebreaker with a 13-5 OU team but lose a tiebreaker if OSU lost to both KSU and ISU to finish 12-6 along with the Sooners.

Of course, the 3-way tie is still in play if Baylor can play up to its talent potential on Senior Day (ha) and OSU wins out. Sadly, the KU sweep of Kansas State would still give the Jayhawks the #1 seed in the Big 12 tourney, but K-State would still have its first conference title since 1977 and perhaps an advantage in terms of NCAA seeding if you're the optimistic type.

Before we get into that, let's take a moment to recognize the 'Cats for getting to 12 wins in league play for the first time since 1972-73, and that's with three games to go. Sure, it helps that they're playing 18 instead of the previous 16 or even 14 or less prior to the Big 12 forming, but it's still a big deal.

Current status: Lock

Kansas State winning out and getting stuck with a #2 seed could actually be good for one simple reason. A Big 12 semifinal win against Oklahoma State would be a lot more impressive than one against Iowa State or Oklahoma.

With K-State still very much fighting for a top 4 seed and a spot in Kansas City on the opening weekend, that extra resume-building win could be paramount. Plus, you avoid the possibility of what could be a somewhat damaging loss to the Sooners or the 'Clones.

Obviously, it's tough to say at this point because it would depend a lot on how other teams do, but I'd say even if Kansas State were to lose to OSU twice, we'd still have a shot at a 4-seed in the Big Dance. Lose at Baylor or to anyone else, and you'll definitely need at least one big win to offset it.

Lunardi keeps Kansas State as a 4-seed this week with an unusual matchup against a BCS conference team in Virginia. His bracket sets up a Sweet 16 rematch against Gonzaga, which would be interesting if not exactly ideal.

Over at SI, Andy Glockner inexplicably decided to keep K-State as a 4-seed but move them to Austin, with the 4-5 matchup of Marquette and Illinois being held in Kansas City. I like Andy, largely because he's also a big soccer fan, so I'm going to assume he just mixed up those sites on accident.

The Bracket Project matrix has Kansas State as the second-best 4-seed well behind New Mexico and its inflated RPI. In case you were wondering, Iowa State still looks fairly strong as a 10-seed and Baylor is listed as the second team out. Desperate times for the Bears.

Wins over hapless Texas and Texas Tech actually dropped Kansas State two spots in ESPN's RPI ratings to No. 21, still being dragged down by playing 3 top 8 teams but not enough ranked in the 100-200 range. Because that makes sense.

This week's RPI complaint comes right in front of the 'Cats, where we find a 19-8 North Carolina team that has yet to beat a ranked team and lost to Texas (pre-Kabongo) by 18. WUT? Presumably the Heels are benefitting from the Roy Williams boost.

Teams to root for this week

This section returns to help you out this week, since K-State needs all the help it can get to ensure a spot in KC. In case you were wondering, the Syracuse loss to Marquette probably comes out of a wash, since the Orange were only marginally ahead of their conference brethren. Remember, we want the bolded teams to lose.

Tuesday

Nebraska @ Wisconsin*, 8 p.m. Big Ten Netwok (WARNING: Watching this game may cause eyes to bleed)

Wednesday

Georgetown @ UConn, 6 p.m. ESPN2

Louisville @ DePaul, 8 p.m. ESPNU

San Diego State @ New Mexico, 9:15 p.m CBS Sports Network

Saturday

Butler @ VCU, 11 a.m. ESPN2

Colorado State @ Boise State, 7 p.m.

Arizona @ UCLA, 8 p.m. ESPN

Sunday

Villanova @ Pittsburgh, 11 a.m. ESPN3

Purdue @ Wisconsin*, noon ESPN

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