A mere four and half weeks ago, K-State seemed like nearly a lock to make the NCAA tournament. Now, after two debacles against Oklahoma and a hard-to-watch second half at Iowa State, mixed in with some uninspiring wins, the ‘Cats find themselves 5-5 in conference play and where all Frank teams seem to be in early February: squarely on the bubble.
The good news is the Wildcats still appear to be in by most measures, as 55 of 56 predictors in The Bracket Project include KSU (screw you, Daily Bracket). The RPI of 47 is a little concerning, but at least the win over Missouri looks really, really good right now.
Those of you who read my blog last year may recall that I first began my series of NCAA bubble posts when K-State was 2-5 in conference and seemed to be in quite a precarious position. From that point forward, KSU won 8 of 9 to close out the regular season, so really I'm just doing my part to try to make that happen again.
At this point, it still would seem if K-State merely takes care of business, it should be in without a problem. That means beating everyone other than Kansas at home, and getting wins in Austin and College Station to finish Big 12 play 10-8.
Drop to 9-9 and things could get a little dicey, though I think KSU would probably still be OK. Similar to last season, I think 9-9 with a win against one of the top three (meaning another bad loss) would actually be better than 9-9 without one.
You have to figure even 9-9 would get K-State no worse than 6th (probably 5th) place and a Wednesday bye in the conference tourney before a somewhat difficult matchup against Iowa State or an extremely difficult game against one of the top three. I'm not really sure if that would be a must-win, but I'd rather not find out.
For a quick preview of Texas Tech, click the jump.
I have nothing to add from my assessment of Texas Tech the last time because this is a terrible, terrible basketball team that just might go winless in conference play this season. However, there are a few things I would like to see to feel better about Kansas State moving forward.
First of all, Rodney McGruder must get back on track after some subpar performances. I'm not saying he needs to drop 30 points again, but it would sure be nice to see him make more than one 3-pointer for the first time since the Texas game three weeks ago.
To continue the shooting meme, this may seem harsh, but I need a little more proof that Will Spradling has really broken out of his slump. His perimeter shot is crucial to the success of this offense and keeping defenses honest.
If Will and Rod aren't shooting well, things are going to be a lot tougher for Thomas Gipson and Jamar Samuels inside. Gipson especially needs a little bit of space created by at least a threat of outside shooting.
This is one of those games where K-State can really only make its tournament status worse, not better, but after this things are going to get real in a hurry. A crucial four-game stretch beginning with a very winnable game at Texas awaits Saturday, and that of course is followed by the three-game gauntlet against the top trio of conference teams in the nation.
Those final three games of the season against Iowa State, A&M and Oklahoma State are going to be a lot more fun to watch, and probably a lot easier to play, if the ‘Cats aren't fighting for their tournament lives.