I'm sure we most all of us would happily trade a win in Stillwater last Saturday for a semifinal loss to the Pokes (or Iowa State, or OU, or Baylor, or whoever) in KC this weekend, and that might even be better from a tournament standpoint as well. Alas, that didn't happen, but a 3-seed and a second trip to Kansas City remain well within reach as we look at KSU's tourney chances for the final time this season.
It's tempting to say things are as simple as earning a return trip by making it to the final, and that very well could. Certainly, a Big 12 tourney title would all but lock up the 3-seed, even it K-State got as lucky as 2009 Missouri by earning the auto bid with wins against TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech.
However, if Kansas State gets to the Big 12 final only to lose to Kansas (or worse, the OU/ISU winner) then I think we'll be sweating it out a bit on Selection Sunday. Not only would KSU still likely have to worry about the Cowboys getting to KC, many of the experts seem to think Marquette is also in the mix.
I'm not completely sold on the fact that the committee would do that even if they thought the Golden Eagles were better, but it's worth comparing resumes. The most likely scenario in the Big East tournament is that Marquette will beat Notre Dame and then get bounced by Louisville, so let's assume that happens for simplicity's sake.
That would give Marquette a slightly worse record compared to the ‘Cats (with an additional loss) of 24-8, but it shouldn't surprise anyone their nonconference schedule is better than ours. It includes a neutral win over Wisconsin, as well as not terrible wins against LSU and USC, plus fewer cupcakes, of course.
The catch is that Marquette also lost 49-47 at Green Bay and, curiously, got run out of the gym in an 82-49 loss at Florida. I would think Marquette would need more marquee wins than Georgetown and Syracuse at home to really overtake a Kansas State team that has nothing close to a bad loss, but the fact is Marquette's 11-spot advantage over KSU in the RPI could loom large in the eyes of the committee.
Ohio State -- who oddly enough had a game against Marquette cancelled earlier this season -- should also be considered a threat. The Buckeyes beat Michigan and Michigan State at home prior to their signature win at Indiana on Senior Night and like K-State, really don't have any bad losses, with the possibly exception of a 74-55 loss in Champaign January 5..
If they lose to Illinois for a second time in the Big 10 tournament then we can forget about the Buckeyes, but there are obviously plenty of big win possibilities still left for them. OSU seems to be a pretty good team, so I think one could happen.
Anyway, now that we've spent way too much time on a Big 10 squad and what is honestly one of the most likeable teams in the Big East, let's go back to KSU for some final thoughts. Clearly, the focus for the team should be on Texas (or TCU) because a loss to one of them could drop the Wildcats to a 5 or even 6 seed, if things really turn sour.
The way I see it, odds are good K-State gets to the semis, knocks off OSU (don't sleep on a Baylor team in the Big 12 tourney), and still gets into the KC pod even with a loss to Kansas. The 3-seed would probably be 50-50 at best in that scenario, depending on what else happens across the country.
KSU Tourney projections
As you'd expect with the tournament fast approaching, the variance among the ‘experts' continues to decrease. Joe Lunardi keeps us as the 4-seed in Kansas City, with a somewhat frightening potential second round matchup vs. Syracuse. Revenge would be sweet, though.
Jerry Palm over at CBS likes Ohio State as a 4-seed in Kansas City, meaning 4-seed KSU is shipped out to San Jose to face Akron with a potential second round matchup against Pittsburgh. Um, OK. Andy Glockner at SI also likes Ohio State in Kansas City, but he at least puts 4-seed KSU in Austin with a potential second round matchup against Saint Louis, which is not as easy as it sounds.
K-State's RPI remains mediocre at 21, one spot lower than it was a week ago. This week's RPI complaint is #17 Memphis, who hasn't beaten anyone in the RPI top 50 other than overrated (#38) Southern Miss on two different occasions.
It's not like the Tigers didn't have their chances, but they lost pretty badly to Minnesota and VCU on a neutral court as well as Louisville at home. Nonetheless, Memphis joins Belmont as a team just ahead of K-State in the computer rankings that will mean entirely too much this week.
Teams to root against this week
It's conference tourney time, so since they'll be playing a lot and we occasionally don't even know why they're playing first, I've just compiled a list of teams right around KSu on the S-curve. We don't want these teams making long runs into the postseason.
Florida (hard to believe and probably a long shot, but still worth adding, especially with KSU's win over the Gators)