Tournament Thursday: Road win brings salvation

How do you feel about this guy as K-State's leader in the postseason? - Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech is no giant, but Kansas State finally slayed their road demons and locked up a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Well, it finally happened. Sure, Texas Tech is 13-15 with losses to teams like Alabama and .....well, surprisingly, that's easily their worst loss.

The Red Raiders also have three Big 12 wins against teams not named TCU, two of whom were ranked at the time. There's no doubt about it: This counts as a road win.

No, K-State didn't play even close to its best game this season, even if you only include those on the road.. In fact, the 'Cats were downright awful on offense for much of the game and had some inexcusable defensive lapses despite a solid overall effort.

Thomas Gipson was disappointing, Shane Southwell was virtually a non-factor and led one of the worst 3-on-1 breaks you will ever see, Nigel Johnson scored K-State's only 4 points off the bench and Marcus Foster waited until just about the last possible moment to save the day. Shout-out to Jordan Tolbert for that momentum-changing flagrant foul, too.

Honestly, though, I really don't care about any of that. Kansas State ended up with more points than Texas Tech, and for that we should all rejoice. If you still feel down, just remember we could be Missouri fans.

No, that's not a tear running down my cheek, I don't know what you're talking about -- we're now moving on to this week's RPI watch. I've included each team's movement from the previous week, with a + indicating the team's ranking got worse and a - indicating it improved. For example, Northern Colorado (-5) went from 172nd to 167th.

Northern Colorado: 16-9 (10-6 Big Sky, 2nd) ESPN RPI 167 (-5)
Oral Roberts: 14-13 (8-6 Southland, T-5th) ESPN RPI 182 (-6)
Long Beach State (twice): 12-14 (8-4 Big West, 3rd) ESPN RPI 150 (-2)
Charlotte: 14-12 (5-8 C-USA, T-9th) ESPN RPI 163 (+26)
Georgetown: 16-11 (7-8 Big East, 7th) ESPN RPI 62 (+3)
Central Arkansas: 6-19 (3-11 Southland, 11th) ESPN RPI 345 (+1)
Ole Miss: 17-11 (8-7 SEC, T-4th) ESPN RPI 79 (+7)
South Dakota: 12-15 (6-6 Summit, T-5th) ESPN RPI 240 (-4)
Troy: 9-17 (4-10 Sun Belt, T-8th) ESPN RPI 278 (+11)
Gonzaga: 22-4 (13-1 WCC, 1st) ESPN RPI 29 (+5)
Tulane: 16-13 (8-6 C-USA, 5th) ESPN RPI 212 (-1)
George Washington: 20-7 (8-5 A-10, T-5th) ESPN RPI 28 (-4)

This was actually a pretty rough week for Kansas State's nonconference resume. When the best thing going for you is South Dakota's ongoing three-game win streak, that's a bad sign.

Charlotte's losing streak hit 5 with a couple home losses, so suddenly K-State has two 160+ losses. Georgetown's 15-point loss at Seton Hall virtually killed the Hoyas' tourney chances, unless they can win 2 of their final 3 @Marquette, vs. Creighton, and @ Villanova. That's not happening.

As for the decent teams the 'Cats actually beat, Ole Miss finally ended its four-game losing streak with a win over lowly Alabama but now must win on the road at Texas A&M and Arkansas to have any prayer of making the tourney without the auto-bid. Gonzaga's at-large status has been called into question after back-to-back losses at BYU and lowly San Diego, and George Washington missed a chance to bolster its resume at Saint Louis.

Current status: LOCK

Is it possible Kansas State could still miss the tournament by losing every game from here on ou? Sure, I guess. But the chances of it happening are so slim I'm even willing to take a large portion of the blame if it somehow comes to pass.

For the last two weeks, I've been saying the 'Cats merely needed a road win to convince me, and here we are. Just as importantly, Kansas State's win over Tech ensures there will be no more bad losses on the resume.*

K-State's last three games (vs. ISU, @ OSU, vs. BU) are kind of tough, obviously, because the Big 12 is the toughest league in the country. But honestly, it could be a lot worse. Just ask Oklahoma State (vs. KSU, vs. KU, @ISU) and West Virginia (vs. TCU, @ OU, vs. KU), both of whom need wins a lot more than the 'Cats.

Shelby Mast of USA Today's has started updated daily for some reason and has 7 Big 12 teams in, with Kansas State as a 9-seed against Stanford in Buffalo and Syracuse as the No. 1. Jerry Palm likes Kansas State as a 9-seed in the West vs. New Mexico, with Arizona waiting in the wings in San Diego.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi has K-State as a 9-seed this morning up against Arizona State in Buffalo, which would be less than ideal. That second round matchup with Syracuse doesn't sound like much fun, either.

Michael Beller of SI posted his bracket before the win at Texas Tech and has K-State as an 8-seed matched up with GW opposite Arizona, which of course could not happen since the 'Cats already played the Colonials. The Bracket Project moved Kansas State up to its third 8 seed, just behind Stanford and ahead of Nick Russell's SMU Mustangs.

*Yes, technically there's a way Kansas State could lose its last three games and wind up as the seven seed, then lose to TCU in Kansas City. I could also get hit by a truck on my way to work tomorrow.

Last week:

We've already gone over the importance of Tuesday's win at Texas Tech, which helped remove some of the stink from an 86-73 loss at Oklahoma. The worst part, of course, is that it wasn't even that close.

K-State's energy level just wasn't good enough and Oklahoma came out hitting on all cylinders, showing what can happen when the defense isn't there against a high-powered offense. Let's hope it was something of a wake-up call, considering who's coming to town.

This week:

That would be Iowa State, the 6th highest scoring team in the nation. Honestly, this might scare me the most of any of the three remaining games, because the Cyclones are scary good when they're playing well and could have easily blown out the Wildcats in Ames if not for a few lapses.

The good news is those are not all that uncommon for this team away from Hilton, where their only wins against teams with winning records are a 90-88 game at BYU and that epic 98-97 victory at Oklahoma State. ISU lost by 25 at West Virginia the last time it went on the road to face a real Big 12 team.

Of course, many would make the argument Oklahoma State on the road will present an even stiffer challenge, now that Marcus Smart is back leading the Cowboys. I think it could be a big benefit to Kansas State to get this game just two days after OSU's showdown with Kansas in Stillwater.

Big 12 bubble competition

K-State's RPI (39) is still not very good, but I don't really care because that's stupid. The 'Cats no longer belong on this list, and neither does West Virginia for opposite reasons after dropping three straight and four of five, most notably a home game against Baylor.

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.

Oklahoma State (18-10, 6-9 RPI 48)

Quality wins: Memphis, Colorado in Las Vegas, Texas

Bad losses: @ Texas Tech (115)

Road/neutral wins: 7

Head-to-head: 0-2

Baylor (17-9, 5-8 RPI 44)

Quality wins: Colorado, Kentucky, @ Oklahoma State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State

Bad losses: @ Texas Tech (115)

Road/neutral wins: 6

Head-to-head: 2-0

I'm still giving Oklahoma State the nod over Baylor for now, not because of a two-game win streak vs. TTU and TCU that actually dropped the Cowboys a spot in the RPI, but because of the Smart factor. His return will likely convince some committee members to put less weight on the end of that seven-game losing streak, especially if OSU can play well against the two Kansas teams in the next four days.

Baylor probably has to win two of its next three and win one or two in KC, something the Bears certainly could do with home games against Texas Tech and Iowa State before that season-ending trip to Manhattan. Scott Drew teams have been known to play well at the end of the season, so it would not be a good idea to count these guys out.

What K-State needs to do to make the NCAAs get a 6-seed

Goals change when you're a lock, and it certainly won't be easy for Kansas State to avoid a 1 or 2 seed on the NCAA tournament's opening weekend. But it could happen if the 'Cats complete the difficult but not impossible task of winning out and then getting at least one win in KC, as long as they get some help. Which brings us to.....

Teams to root against

The Only Colors provided the ultimate takedown of the RPI that you should read when you've got a half-hour, so it's time for a new section featuring upcoming games with teams either slightly ahead or just about even with Kansas State. The idea here is simple: Those teams that are bolded lose, K-State wins by jumping above them in the seed line.

Note unrealistic upsets (like Boston College winning at Syracuse) are not included. Games featuring equal teams near K-State (i.e. Texas at OU) are also not included, because that's more or less a net neutral situation.

Thursday

Iowa at Indiana, 8 p.m. ESPN

Saturday

UMass at Dayton, 10 a.m. ESPNU
Memphis at Louisville, 1 p.m. CBS
North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 1:30 p.m. ESPN3
VCU at Saint Louis, 5 p.m. ESPN2
Stanford at Arizona, 7 p.m. ESPNU
Cincinnati at UConn, 11 a.m. ESPN

Sunday

New Mexico at Nevada, 5 p.m. ESPN3

Monday
Notre Dame at North Carolina, 6 p.m. ESPN

Wednesday

St. Joseph's at George Washington, 8 p.m.
Louisville at SMU, 6 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Colorado at Stanford, 8 p.m. ESPN2
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