Wednesday night proved to be a wild night in college basketball, highlighted by a shockingly bad loss at home by the #1 team in the country. But it was also an interesting night for bubble teams, as Missouri, LSU and Oregon got some nice wins, and Utah just missed out on a huge win against Arizona.
That kind of craziness where seemingly anyone can lose on any given night 's why Kansas State (who was mentioned in that above link, though not really as a bubble team) must stay above the fray. As usual, this is not a year where you want to rely on other teams or even need a good showing in the conference tournament to earn a ticket to the Big Dance.
The good news is K-State appears to be a better team now that Will Spradling has figured things out and in a nice turn of events, D.J. Johnson and Omari Lawrence have become quite useful contributors off the bench. Kansas State's KenPom rating (37th) and road struggles are still a concern, but the 'Cats are overall in pretty good shape.
Before we get to what they need to do to stay that way, particularly in a week with some great opportunities to rise or fall, let's take a look at the abbreviated RPI. No TCU this week, because once was enough to make the point.
Now updated with movement from last week! Note the + means a team has moved down in the rankings; for example, the +1 indicates Gonzaga was 23rd last week.
Northern Colorado: 13-8 (9-5 Big Sky, 2nd) ESPN RPI 172 (-21)
Oral Roberts: 13-13 (7-6 Southland, T-6th) ESPN RPI 188 (+4)
Long Beach State (twice): 11-14 (7-4 Big West, T-3rd) ESPN RPI 152 (-22)
Charlotte: 14-10 (5-6 C-USA, T-8th) ESPN RPI 137 (+24)
Georgetown: 15-10 (6-7 Big East, 7th) ESPN RPI 59 (+5)
Central Arkansas: 6-18 (3-10 Southland, 11th) ESPN RPI 344 (+5)
Ole Miss: 16-10 (7-6 SEC, T-4th) ESPN RPI 72 (+11)
South Dakota: 10-15 (3-5 Summit, T-5th) ESPN RPI 244 (+14)
Troy: 9-15 (4-8 Sun Belt, 7th) ESPN RPI 267 (+8)
Gonzaga: 22-4 (13-1 WCC, 1st) ESPN RPI 24 (+1)
Tulane: 14-12 (6-5 C-USA, 5th) ESPN RPI 213 (+9)
George Washington: 20-6 (8-4 A-10, 3rd) ESPN RPI 32 (+5)
Northern Colorado's four-game road trip ended and so did its four-game losing streak (UNC is 2-8 on the road this season) in the Big Sky, which is nice, I guess. Meanwhile, Ole Miss' losing streak reached three games and will likely get to four with a home game against Florida coming up on Saturday.
Kansas State would be a lock if it had just closed out that game Saturday by you know, maybe grabbing a defensive rebound on one of three opportunities. Or, what I think is not getting talked about enough is the fact that Marcus Foster missed a free throw that would have basically sealed it in regulation, and then missed another one that would have put K-State ahead with 30 seconds left in the first overtime. Not what you want from your go-to scorer.
But that's over and done with, so it was nice to see K-State bounce back and comfortably dispose of TCU, even if it took a little longer than it should have. That will be the last time Kansas State can play a sleepy game at home, with Iowa State and Baylor due as the last teams to visit Bramlage this season.
Well, I've been talking about the importance of getting a decent road win for a long time now, and this week offers quite possibly the two best opportunities of the season. It's now or never, guys, and 0-2 would put K-State in a slightly uncomfortable position with Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor to close out the regular season.
The first test will be Oklahoma, a team that has certainly been very good at times this year. But the Sooners have also been surprisingly vulnerable at home, with losses to Louisiana Tech, Kansas (duh) and Texas Tech in a building where K-State improved to 4-1 on the road last season. Those were the days.
The Wildcats won at Texas Tech to improve to 5-1 on the road (gasp!) a year ago, and it sure would be nice to get another win in Lubbock. It won't be quite as easy this season (just ask Kansas) but make no mistake, this would still be considered a bad loss by most against a team currently ranked 106 in the ESPN RPI.
Big 12 bubble competition
Once again, K-State doesn't really belong here, but this is a blog about the Wildcats so we'll keep them there. If this were an Oklahoma blog, I might include the Sooners, though their resume is a little better than Kansas State's is at this point.
Remember, a quality win is against the RPI Top 50 and a bad loss is any team worse than the RPI Top 100. Head-to-head is the team's record against the other Big 12 bubble teams listed here.
Kansas State (18-8, 8-5 RPI 37)
Quality wins: Gonzaga in Wichita, George Washington, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas
Bad losses: Northern Colorado (172), Charlotte in Puerto Rico (137)
Road/neutral wins: 3.5 (Gonzaga in Wichita was more like a home game)
Oklahoma State (16-10, 4-9 RPI 47)
Quality wins: Memphis, Colorado in Las Vegas, Texas
Bad losses: @ Texas Tech (115)
Road/neutral wins: 6
Baylor (17-9, 5-8 RPI 44)
Quality wins: Colorado, Kentucky, @ Oklahoma State, Kansas State
Bad losses: @ Texas Tech (115)
Road/neutral wins: 5
West Virginia (15-11, 7-6 RPI 68)
Quality wins: Kansas State, Oklahoma, Iowa State
Bad losses: Purdue (109), @ Virginia Tech (218)
Road/neutral wins: 6
Oklahoma State is officially on life support after seven straight losses, and I'm sure the committee will be very interested to see how the Cowboys do with Marcus Smart back in the lineup. Their schedule is really nice this week (vs. TTU, @ TCU) so of course it gets brutal in the final 3 games (vs. KU, vs. KSU, @ ISU).
West Virginia got drilled at Texas, and it seems like the Mountaineers will need to either find another good road win somewhere or make a big run in the Big 12 tourney to have a chance. They've still got games at Iowa State and Oklahoma, plus a home date vs. Kansas that would be just as good as either of those road wins, if not better.
Meanwhile, Baylor probably needs to get a win either at West Virginia or at Texas this week to stay in the hunt, even with big chances against ISU and @ KSU to end the season. Fortunately for the Bears, they're playing quite well right now.
What K-State needs to do to make the NCAAs: