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We're as close to a Kansas State conference title as we've ever been in my lifetime. Surely the Big 12 champs are guaranteed an NCAA trip to Kansas City, right?
Nearly all of the complications have been taken out for the Big 12 title at this point. K-State shouldn't be worrying about anything else other than winning at Stillwater, and I'll be sure to take a closer look at that game when we get to Friday's preview.
In the meantime, we as fans have the luxury of looking around and speculating what else could happen, and there's actually still a lot of possible scenarios. The 'Cats could still wind up anywhere from the #1 seed to the #3 seed in the Big 12 tourney, depending on what happens in three critical games this week.
Tonight's Oklahoma State game at Iowa State is actually huge for a lot of reasons (ISU is squarely on the bubble), and the Cyclones appear to have a really good chance of sealing the #2 seed for Kansas State. Winning in Hilton in....er....let's go with "traditional" fashion has proven impossible this season and in fact, no team has done it since Missouri on Jan. 11, 2012.
Plus, let's not forget OSU needed a Marcus Smart basket with 3 seconds left to avoid overtime against ISU in Stillwater. The Cyclones' guards are a tricky matchup for Oklahoma State, and if the Cowboys don't guard the perimeter well, they will lose.
Perhaps the bigger game, though, is the one in Waco between Baylor and Kansas. The Bears desperately need this one and haven't beaten the Jayhawks at the Ferrell Center since 2001, but Pierre Jackson should outplay Elijah Johnson on most nights, and Isaiah Austin provides an unusually tough matchup for Jeff Withey by matching his height and possessing the ability to draw Withey outside.
How would all this affect KSU? Well, I doubt I need to tell anyone how glorious a KSU win and KU loss would be, but the other scenarios are interesting.
Based on last Saturday, K-State doesn't want any part of Baylor in the Big 12 tournament, so we should be cheering hard for ISU tomorrow. Otherwise, even if Scott Drew can miraculously beat Bill Self, the 'Cats would still lose all tiebreakers and fall to the #3 seed at the Big 12 tourney with Baylor already locked into the 6 seed. That brings us to NCAA implications.
Current status: Lock
At this point, earning a top-3 seed and with it (presumably) a guaranteed trip to Kansas City seems like a reasonable goal. Sure, the committee could always make some sort of irrational judgment based on the "weak" nonconference schedule, but I'd prefer not to think about that.
Another win against Oklahoma State should probably seal that spot, whether it comes in Stillwater or Kansas City. If the 'Cats lose to OSU twice within a span of eight days, then the odds will not be in our favor.
A win at Stillwater plus an upset loss to Texas (or West Virginia) would be the most interesting case for the committee. I'd like to think we'd be OK as long as the other teams near the 3 or 4-seed lines didn't rack up a bunch of big wins, but ideally this team will continue its welcome trend of taking care of inferior competition and we'll never find out.
Kansas State finally earned a spot as a 3-seed in Lunardi's bracket, which bizarrely has them facing the winner of Villanova/Tennessee in a first round matchup in Kansas City. But I have to say, the idea of meeting up with Oregon in the second round and getting a bit of revenge for the Fiesta Bowl sure is appealing.
Andy Glockner apparently loves the RPI, because he has #1 Gonzaga as a 2-seed and is still keeping Kansas State as a 4-seed in Austin, just like last week. He's also a big defender of the vast collection of good teams in the Mountain West and A-10, though I'm still skeptical there are any true national title or even Final Four contenders among them. Yeah, I know. Butler.
The Wildcats finally moved into the last spot on the 3-seed line in the Bracket Project matrix, just ahead of a Marquette team that nearly suffered an awful loss at Rutgers Tuesday night. That would have been excellent.
Kansas State moved up only one spot in the RPI to No. 20, still inexplicably behind a North Carolina team that has managed to win 5 in a row in the ACC without any truly impressive wins. This week's RPI complaint (with apologies to wildcat00) is Minnesota, who certainly has a nice collection of quality wins but still should not be 16th with 9 losses, including disasters at Iowa (by 21!) and at Northwestern, not to mention an absolutely criminal 45-44 loss at Wisconsin.
Teams to root for this week
Last Saturday was a very good one for us as not only did K-State win in dramatic fashion, but Butler, Colorado State, and Arizona all fell to lesser teams. Then on Sunday Purdue won at Wisconsin (LOL) and Villanova nearly completed the perfect weekend by knocking off Pitt, but alas, it was not to be. As always, we want bolded teams to lose.
Oklahoma State @ Iowa State, 6 p.m. ESPNU
Saint Louis @ Xavier, 8 p.m.
Wisconsin* @ Michigan State, 8 p.m. ESPN
Syracuse @ Georgetown, 11 a.m. ESPN
Arizona St. @ Arizona, 3:30 p.m. FSN
New Mexico @ Air Force, 5 p.m.
Marquette @ St. John's, 1 p.m. ESPN
Illinois @ Ohio State, 11:30 a.m. ESPN
Wisconsin* @ Penn St., 11 a.m. Big 10 Network