Tournament Thursday: Leadership questions

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

Kansas State will need strong leaders in the postseason to have a chance to knock off more talented opponents in unfamiliar and potentially hostile environments.

People like to say experience and leadership matters a lot more in March, when the pressure rises and it takes great performances to advance to the next round.

That's certainly true to a degree, though teams like Kentucky in 2012 or Syracuse in 2003 have proved that talent with good chemistry can go a long ways. Sometimes that can take a while to develop, like with Kemba Walker's Connecticut team in 2009 that was actually a 9 seed in a loaded Big East tournament.

The thing about Kansas State is, with all due respect to Marcus Foster, this just isn't a team with that kind of elite talent. To be clear, I'm not getting all delusional and talking about some miracle run to the Final Four, but even a spot in the Sweet 16 will take someone stepping up to fill the role of a guy capable of raising the level of his teammates.

Foster is about as good as it gets as a freshman this side of an NBA lottery pick, and he's clearly the go-to guy in must-score situations for this team. But it may be asking too much for him to step up and fill an even bigger role in his first season.

Senior Will Spradling may be the best bet, though he's never seemed like a guy capable of really being vocal and rallying his teammates. Thomas Gipson could do it with a little more consistency, and as for the other senior, well.....I don't think a lot needs to be said about the Paradox.

Anyhow, it's certainly something to watch for in the Big 12 tournament, which K-State will most likely open against Iowa State next Thursday in a 4-5 matchup. By the way, we're skipping the Big 12 Bubble Watch section this week because most likely the league is getting 7 teams in, unless Baylor or Oklahoma State suffer a stupid loss next Wednesday or West Virginia does something crazy, like beat KU Saturday and make the Big 12 semis.

Here's the RPI watch for which 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 (+50) went from 167 to 217. Seriously.

Northern Colorado: 16-12 (10-9) Big Sky, 5thd) ESPN RPI 217 (+50)
Oral Roberts: 16-13 (10-6 Southland, T-4th) ESPN RPI 186 (+4)
Long Beach State (twice): 13-15 (9-5 Big West, 3rd) ESPN RPI 147 (-4)
Charlotte: 15-13 (6-9 C-USA, T-9th) ESPN RPI 154 (-9)
Georgetown: 17-12 (8-9 Big East, 6th) ESPN RPI 58 (-4)
Central Arkansas: 8-19 (5-11 Southland, 11th) ESPN RPI 335 (-10)
Ole Miss: 17-13 (8-9 SEC, T-8th) ESPN RPI 95 (+16)
South Dakota: 12-17 (6-8 Summit, 5th) ESPN RPI 249 (+9)
Troy: 10-18 (5-11 Sun Belt, 8th) ESPN RPI 271 (-7)
Gonzaga: 25-6 (15-3 WCC, 1st) ESPN RPI 26 (-3)
Tulane: 16-14 (8-7 C-USA, T-5th) ESPN RPI 220 (+8)
George Washington: 22-7 (10-5 A-10, T-5th) ESPN RPI 24 (-4)

Northern Colorado is in the midst of its second 4-game losing streak since Jan. 30, but the good news (I hope) is they play at 1-26 Southern Utah on Saturday. Surely they can't lose that one, right? Meanwhile Oral Roberts managed the difficult feat of dropping four spots to 186th despite two wins, which is what happens when you play Lamar and Sam Houston St. at home.

The biggest win of the week was Georgetown's upset over Creighton on Tuesday, which more than made up for a loss at Marquette over the weekend. Still, the Hoyas probably need to win at Villanova Saturday and at least make the Big East semis to have a legit NCAA shot.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss probably needs to run the table after back-to-back ugly losses at Aggie and Arkansas (by 30!). George Washington should have some more leeway after an impressive home win over St. Joseph's last Saturday.

Current status: LOCK

The absolute worst-case scenario for Kansas State at this point is a loss to Baylor on Saturday followed by a loss to West Virginia next Thursday, which I guess would probably knock the 'Cats down to a 10 or 11 seed. I don't expect that top happen, but it could.

Meanwhile, SLU's recent losing streak is great for one or two reasons, depending on how you feel about Wichita State. Obviously, it helps Kansas State possibly jump the Billikens, and suddenly the Shockers' one decent win (shut up, Tennessee fans) doesn't look so great.

I learned recently the mothership has a bracketologist by the name of Chris Dobbertean, and it looks like he'll even be the guest on next week's podcast. His bracket published today has Kansas State as an 8 seed in Orlando vs. Arizona State with a potential second round matchup vs. Florida. I like it.

Shelby Mast of USA Today updated today and also likes the 'Cats as an 8 seed vs. Arizona State, but his bracket has the appetizing second-round matchup of Wichita State in the second round. Jerry Palm of CBS has Kansas State as a 9 seed vs. New Mexico in San Diego, with #1 seed Arizona as the second round matchup.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi put Kansas State as an 8 seed vs. Gonzaga in Orlando, which is extremely unlikely under the NCAA's new guidelines. Once again, Florida would likely await in the second round.

The Bracket Project still has Kansas State as its third 8 seed, just behind Arizona State and ahead of Nick Russell's SMU Mustangs. Sounds about right, I guess.

Last week:

K-State once again just stayed the course with a nice home win over Iowa State and a disappointing road loss to Oklahoma State. It was nice to beat another ranked team, even though the Cyclones really haven't been very good away from home all year. Just don't tell the committee.

There's not much I haven't already said about the loss at Oklahoma State, which was sadly all too predictable. The good news is most people seem to realize this is a very different Cowboys team from the one that lost four straight -- including home losses to Baylor/Iowa State and a game at Texas Tech -- even before the Marcus Smart suspension.

This week:

Baylor suddenly looms as a very dangerous game on Senior Day, though the extra rest after the Big Monday game should benefit the 'Cats some. The Bears have won 6 of 7 and present some matchup nightmares inside if their bigs are playing hard, plus they may still have the motivation of trying to lock up an NCAA tourney bid.

Next Thursday's first round game would be quite nice to win, though it certainly won't be easy if it's Iowa State, Baylor or Oklahoma State. The (unlikely) best-case scenario would be Kansas State earning the 3 seed and a chance to face West Virginia, a much more winnable game but still kind of dangerous against a desparate Mountaineers team.

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

This might be a pipe dream at this point, although a run to the Big 12 championship that includes a second win over Kansas would do wonders for a resume. It would also be nice to get some help.....

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 I'm now including this section featuring upcoming games with teams either slightly ahead of 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.

Obviously, root against the teams in bold once they get to their conference tournaments as well, though I'm not including those games unless they're already scheduled. Games featuring two teams that are close (i.e. SMU @ Memphis on Saturday) are not included because they would be net neutral for Kansas State.

Thursday

VCU at Richmond, 8 p.m. CBS Sports Network
Iowa at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ESPN
UCLA at Washington, 8 p.m. ESPN2

Saturday

Kentucky (LOL) at Florida, 11 a.m. CBS
UConn at Louisville, 1 p.m. CBS
Texas (like I needed to tell you this one) at Texas Tech, 3 p.m. ESPNNews
George Washington at Fordham, 3:30 p.m.
Arizona State at Oregon State, 3:30 p.m. Pac-12 Network
St. Bonaventure at VCU, 6 p.m.
Gonzaga vs. Pacific or Santa Clara, 8 p.m.
New Mexico at San Diego State, 9 p.m. CBS Sports Network
UCLA at Washington State, 10 p.m. Fox Sports 1

Sunday

Michigan State at Ohio State, 3 p.m. CBS
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