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Tournament Tuesday: Is the dream dead?

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K-State reduced its margin for error to basically zero with a dud of a week, but games against the first and last-place teams in the conference give the 'Cats a chance to get back on track.

Barry Brown's chances of making shots like this are probably higher than K-State's chances of making the tourney at this point in time.
Barry Brown's chances of making shots like this are probably higher than K-State's chances of making the tourney at this point in time.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that didn’t go as planned. Yes, maybe I got a little bit overly excited last week, but come on. K-State beat the #1 team in the country by double digits. Surely that same team could handle Rico Gathers-less Baylor and Travis Ford’s slumping Cowboys.

Unfortunately, attempts to predict what this team might do on any given day appears to be futile, unless of course you’re talking whether they'll win a Big 12 road game. These ‘Cats are now 0-6, making it a 13-game losing streak overall and dropping to 2-21 since a win at TCU to open Big 12 play in 2014. That’s atrocious.

At the end of the day, K-State simply has some flaws that can’t be solved this season. Notably, the lack of a strong defender or shot blocker inside, poor 3-point shooting and, now that Kamau Stokes is hurt, the lack of a good point guard. Unfortunately, Bruce Weber also hasn’t given us a lot of evidence he can outcoach his (mostly) formidable foes in the Big 12, either.

It's important to remember the NIT seemed like worthy goal at the start of the year and a nice run could have some definite value for the young guys. But let's not accept that just yet, and let's definitely not think about the possibility of K-State failing to make the secondary Field of 32.

Anyway, here's a look at the RPI of K-State's opponents, since it still matters for some reason. Note that teams the 'Cats have played twice are only listed the first time, and teams K-State beat are in bold with the change from last week in parentheses.

Maryland Eastern-Shore: 298 (-26)
Columbia: 129 (-9)
South Dakota: 175 (+11)
Missouri: 197 (+1)
North Carolina: 8 (+1)
South Carolina State: 244 (-38)
Georgia: 65 (-2)
Coppin State: 316 (-3)
Texas A&M: 25 (-8)
Colorado State: 176 (+6)
North Dakota 238 (-8)
Saint Louis: 201 (-12)
West Virginia: 11 (-1)
Texas: 21 (-1)
Oklahoma: 2 (-1)
Texas Tech: 32 (+20)
Iowa State: 15 (-2)
Baylor: 30 (-6)
Oklahoma State: 142 (-2)
Ole Miss: 85 (-3)
Kansas: 1 (+5)

Well, it wasn't exactly a great week for K-State's opponents, either. Texas A&M continued its freefall, SLU extended its losing streak to five and Columbia's chances to win the Ivy League dropped to basically zero in the biggest of the nonconference disappointments. Also, if you're wondering how South Carolina State could drop 38 spots to 244, the answer is a home loss to RPI No. 317 Savannah State. Ouch.

Naturally, Baylor only made Kansas State's home loss look worse by taking a beating from Texas Tech in Waco. The Red Raiders enjoyed a huge jump following that win, combined with a solid home victory of Iowa State.

Current Status: Very Out

Seven brackets out of 92 in The Bracket Project's matrix put K-State in the field, and I don't have to tell you how many of those have been updated since Saturday. Our friend Chris Dobbertean at SB Nation's Blogging the Bracket last updated on Friday, and he still put the 'Cats at No. 77 on his list, or one after the "Next Four Out." Not good.

Last week: To be honest, I kind of expected the Baylor loss coming off a tough week and by far the biggest win of the year. Opportunity came knocking when Rico Gathers didn't make the trip because of illness, but then Baylor shot out of its mind and K-State didn't hit a three until the final minute. It happens, I guess.

The much more troubling loss came at Stillwater, where I really thought Kansas State could handle a pretty awful basketball team and its hated coach, even on the road. Instead, KSU played maybe its worst game of the season and scored 3 points in overtime. I guess I should have known better, considering the Royals have more AL pennants and the Chiefs have more playoff wins than K-State has wins in Stillwater since 1993.

This one especially hurt because it means we can no longer brag that the Wildcats have only lost to ranked teams. In fact, it's really best to ignore how poorly Oklalhoma State is ranked, by almost any measure.

This week: As noted in this morning's Slate, Kansas State must win tonight's game at TCU. It's really that simple. There are those who would tell you TCU is actually a decent team, they're just suffering from playing in a tough conference. Those people are wrong.

The Horned Frogs have lost by an average of 21 points on the road and their only two home wins came against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. They also lost at home to South Dakota State. If K-State plays well, it gets a win. If K-State plays poorly, it might still have a chance to win. Just find a way.

Saturday's game is slightly more intimidating. No team in the Big 12 is hotter than Kansas right not, and the Jayhawks looked good again dismantling Oklahoma State for their sixth straight win. But the 'Cats really, really need this one, so the positives are that they looked competitive in Lawrence and have somehow won two straight over KU in Manhattan.

Big 12 bubble competition:

Texas is somewhat close to being in danger after two straight losses, but the Longhorns should be fine with four of their next five at home., where they're 5-0 in Big 12 play. However, those games are against West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas, so it could get interesting.

As always, quality wins are in the ESPN RPI top 50, bad losses are outside the top 100, and head-to-head consists of games played against other Big 12 bubble competition.

Kansas State (14-11, 3-9) RPI 65

Quality wins: Oklahoma (1)

Bad losses: Oklahoma State (142)

Road/Neutral wins: Georgia, Missouri (in KC), Colorado State (in Wichita)

Head-to-head: 1-0

Texas Tech (15-9, 5-7) RPI 32

Quality wins: South Dakota State (48), Texas (20)

Bad losses: None

Road/Neutral wins: TCU, Mississippi State (in Puerto Rico), Minnesota (in Puerto Rico), Baylor

Head-to-head: 0-1

If the committee were to look at Kansas State against its Big 12 bubble competition, it would not go well. As mentioned before, two big wins by the Red Raiders gave them some serious life with six games remaining. Also, yes, K-State's RPI dropped 30 spots. Let's not talk about it.

Texas Tech could really make a statement Wednesday with a home win at Oklahoma, then the Red Raiders play two must-win games. The first is a trip to Stillwater and the second is a visit from TCU, both chances to gain some confidence before traveling to Morgantown and Lawrence.

What K-State needs to do to make the NCAAs: The overall formula hasn't changed from last week for the reasons I outlined in that post, but it has obviously gotten a lot harder after two straight losses. Still, K-State doesn't need to finish perfectly yet, so that's a plus.

It's imperative to defend the homecourt from here on out, and not just because the 'Cats are in serious danger of their first losing season at home since 2000-2001. They just need two of the three to avoid that, but if we still want to talk about making the tourney that means K-State had better beat KU, Texas and TCU.

On the road, Kansas State could probably still get away wiith a loss at Iowa State. But Bruce Weber had better get his team to find its energy and emotion before trips to TCU and Texas Tech. Based on talent alone, it should be doable, but I'll understand if watching this team play away from home recently brings negativity.

The scary part of this is that 2-4 doesn't seem out of the question at all, and then a slip-up on day one in KC would mean a .500 record. That would be a disaster.