Let's all be very honest for a minute. Despite the varying views on WHY this year's K-State Men's Basketball team ended up where it is this year, the fact still remains that it is a team full of freshmen, newcomers, and a couple of solid role players being thrust into a position of leadership. Based solely on that fact, it can be easily argued that this team has at least met, if not exceeded, expectations that were held before game one was ever played.
In lieu of a regular preview, we're going to take a short minute to just look at where we're at and what is appearing in the postseason crystal ball.
Tonight, the Texas Longhorns come into Bramlage to take on the Kansas State Wildcats on a quick two-day turnaround for both squads. Texas comes in ranked #25 in both major polls with a 17-10 record, 8-6 in Big 12 play, and have dropped three of their past four, including getting smacked by Baylor in Austin just recently. They're not spectacular at anything, but all the components add up to a solid team on both ends of the floor. They've got some respectable shooters, they've got some rim protectors, they take care of the ball, and they force some turnovers from their opponents. They're currently at #28 RPI, #30 kenpom, and are squarely in the at-large conversation for the NCAA tournament unless the wheels completely fall off. Even in that case, closing out the season with games against both KU and Oklahoma means there's a legitimate chance they could lose out and still make the tourney.
Conversely, K-State moved onto the NCAA bubble with their win over then-#1 Oklahoma, then right back off with a lackluster road loss to Oklahoma State and a home loss to Baylor. The Wildcats are 15-12 on the season, 4-10 in Big 12, and find themselves at a respectable #45 kenpom, but #72 RPI. All things considered, the road loss at Oklahoma State is truly the only result the team should be embarrassed about, given the state of the game throughout the conference. However, NCAA tourney talk is absolutely done without winning the next four (UT, @ISU, TCU, @TTU), plus at least one more in the Big 12 tournament.
So...let's talk NIT briefly. The National Invitational Tournament has never invited a team with a losing record. At 15-12, K-State MUST win one more game for the NIT to be a possibility, and frankly, better win two to feel comfortable. We all know that the Big 12 is a behemoth of basketball this year, with 70% of the league either ranked or earning votes, so not all records from year to year are created equal. At the end of the day, I don't think it matters. We still need to win a couple basketball games yet to finish out the season; we're favored in our home games (Vegas has it as a pick 'em, kenpom has K-State at 63%), and dogs in our road games. Time to see if everyone wearing purple has the guts to get it done and finish it out with momentum.