It goes without saying that K-State's 94-74 loss to Missouri last night puts the Wildcats between a rock and a hard place as far as their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. While I firmly believe that the game against Mizzou wasn't a must-win in the sense that it was "win or you're out," the Cats had a chance to stake their claim to an NCAA Tournament bid with a road win over a top-10 team. They didn't get it done.
What I liked...
...Denis Clemente's willingness to take over the game when it was obvious nobody else had a clue what to do. Although his 33 points went for naught in a blowout loss, he certainly did what he could, scoring-wise, to keep things respectable.
What I didn't like...
...sloppiness with the ball. The rumor is that this team has been hit by the flu bug, which may explain the laziness we saw in the first half. Despite his 33 points, Clemente had seven turnovers for the game, several of them contributing to Mizzou's run at the end of the first half that buried K-State. You can break a press by making smart, sure passes, or you can be lazy and gamble. Mizzou hopes you gamble, and last night we did.
...giving up 20 (!) offensive rebounds. Dear God. If we turn the ball over and give up offensive rebounds like that, we won't win another game this season. DeMarre Carroll, not especially known as a rebounder, pulled down 14 boards himself last night.
...a variety of little niggling things that need to be taken care of. Fred Brown has totally disappeared, and we don't seem to be doing much to get him open looks. Dom Sutton can't seem to find his offensive game. Jamar Samuels is up and down, and last night he was down, though I can live with that from a freshman. Bad Jacob Pullen showed up again last night, going 2-9 from three-point range and 2-12 overall. Yikes.
What it means and where we're going...
It means we have to win out to get to 10-6 in conference, which would almost certainly land us a first-round bye in OKC and would be a tough number for the Committee to ignore (though they have before). After the KU game there was some chatter that we needed to win out, but at this point, there is no doubt. We must beat Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Colorado if we are to have any shot at an at-large bid heading into the conference tournament.
We've now played two games in a row without much energy, grinding out a win in Ames and getting shellacked in Columbia. After Nebraska's heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday, the Huskers are in the same boat as far as needing to regroup. Frank Martin needs to rally the troops quickly, because it is imperative that we win Saturday's game in Manhattan.