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Tournament Thursday: Locked In

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Time to examine the resumes of other teams competing with Kansas State for some of the tournament’s top seeds.

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NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Texas
It turns out Kansas State’s tournament hopes were in good hands all along.
Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas State Wildcats would make the NCAA tournament if they lost every single game the rest of the season.

You can disagree with that if you’d like, but you can’t convince me a 19-13 team with six Q1 wins isn’t making this year’s field of 68 unless some really weird stuff happens in conference tournaments. Especially when 5 of those 19 wins are in true road games against Big 12 teams and another three came at a neutral site.

If Eamon Brennan doesn’t label K-State as a lock in his next Bubble Watch, rest assured I will be writing him a sternly worded email. Or at least a tweet. Maybe even both.

But fortunately, we don’t have to worry about any of that because Kansas State’s never going to lose again. Not in Lawrence, not in Kansas City, not in Minneapolis. You may be asking yourselves: “What if K-State runs into one of those crazy athletic, talented teams like Duke or Gonzaga and has an off-shooting night?” To which I say, who cares?

So, since the bubble no longer matters for Kansas State, the format of this post will be somewhat different than previous weeks. I am open to suggestions, since this is a mostly unfamiliar position for this post with this much of the season left. Let’s get started.

Current status: Lock

Kansas State is up to the last 5 seed on The Bracket Project, one spot ahead of Virginia Tech and one behind Villanova. Other 5 seeds include Iowa State and Texas Tech, so it’s a popular line for Big 12 teams for now.

Esteemed commenter RazDad lists Kansas State as a 6 seed with a matchup against VCU. KU has dropped down to the 3 seed line while Iowa State moved up to a 4, Texas Tech remains a 5, Baylor is an 8, TCU and Texas are 9 seeds and Oklahoma is barely hanging on as a 9 seed.

Joe Lunardi’s Tuesday Bracketology gave Kansas State a 6 seed and a matchup with Lipscomb, but that was before the Wildcats won in Austin and the Bison lost to Liberty in Nashville, so it seems doubly irrelevant now. SI’s Michael Beller gave Kansas State a 5 seed and a matchup with the winner of Utah State vs. Clemson.

Prior to K-State’s win over Texas, our friend Chris Dobbertean at SB Nation’s Blogging the Bracket listed the ‘Cats as a 5 seed with a matchup against New Mexico State. That is good. Unfortunately, he has KSU in the same pod as 4 seed Wisconsin. That is not good. Why would you do this to us, Chris?

Nonconference play

It was another not-so-great week, but there were definitely some positives. Most notably, of course, Marquette knocked off Villanova to stay in contention for the Big East title. Also, Mizzou beat Mike Anderson and Arkansas, which always makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

You’ll see the movement from last week reflected in the results below. Remember, a + means improvement from the previous week while a - means a drop in the rankings. We’ve also added a new feature with a nice graphic representation of the NET rankings, thanks to an assist from our own jeffp171.

56-41 vs. Kennesaw State (5-21) NET 340 (+3) KenPom 339 (+2)
64-56 vs. Denver (7-18) NET 312 (-4) KenPom 301 (+2)
95-68 vs. Eastern Kentucky (11-14) in Virgin Islands NET 250 (+2) KenPom 241 (-6)
64-48 vs. Penn (14-8) in Virgin Islands NET 92 (+3) KenPom 123 (+8)
82-67 vs. Missouri (12-11) in Virgin Islands NET 88 (-8) KenPom 94 (-9)
77-58 vs. Lehigh (16-8) NET 153 (+3) KenPom 158 (+2)
71-83 at Marquette (19-4) NET 19 (+2) KenPom 26 (+3)
46-47 at Tulsa (13-10) NET 81 (+17) KenPom 110 (+24)
59-71 vs. Georgia State (16-7) NET 135 (+0) KenPom 130 (+0)
55-51 vs. Southern Miss (14-9) NET 121 (-2) KenPom 128 (-2)
69-58 vs. Vanderbilt (9-15) in KC NET 125 (-10) KenPom 129 (+0)
59-58 vs. George Mason (15-10) NET 137 (+1) KenPom 137 (+0)
53-65 at Texas A&M (10-13) NET 82 (+17) KenPom 95 (+27)

jeffp171

Texas A&M and George Mason both went 2-0, although they did so without beating anyone in the top half of their respective conferences. Tulsa picked up perhaps its best win since KSU by crushing Temple 76-58 at home, where the Golden Hurricane are 12-2.

All in all, it was pretty boring. We’re getting to the point in the season where we know who these teams are, so there’s generally not a lot of movement from week to week. In case you were wondering, Lehigh, Marquette, Georgia State and George Mason are still in realistic contention for conference titles.

Last week

Kansas State kept proving its road mettle by winning at shorthanded Baylor and at Texas against a team that provides some serious matchup problems for the Wildcats. We saw some new stuff with the 2-3 zone look and of course, some more encouraging signs for K-State against the zone defense.

That’s 13 road wins now for Bruce in the last three seasons, second only to KU’s 16. If the ‘Cats win one more (at WVU, at KU or at TCU) they would become just the third non-KU team to win six Big 12 road games in a season. One of those other two? The 2012-13 Big 12 co-champion Kansas State Wildcats.

This week

Iowa State comes to Manhattan to provide what should be a significant test, assuming the Cyclones took the week to recover and stew over their surprising loss at home to TCU. They’ll also be trying to avenge a one-point loss in Ames, which was perhaps K-State’s most fortunate win of the season, if we’re being honest.

Two days later K-State faces a road game it will absolutely be expected to win easily, at West Virginia. It’s always dangerous to overlook the Mountaineers, but this team is at the bottom of the conference and just dismissed its third-leading scorer, Esa Ahmad.

Chasing seeds

We don’t need to look at the Big 12 bubble competition or what K-State needs to do to make the NCAAs anymore, as the ‘Cats have moved well past all that discussion. Last week’s edition analyzed what Kansas State needs to do to win the Big 12 and that’s an ongoing discussion in the Slate comments almost every day, so instead we’re going to compare some resumes to see what kind of seed the Wildcats could realistically achieve.

Let’s start with Tier 1, the list of teams K-State won’t surpass unless they have a massive collapse. All of these teams are top 10 in the NET and KenPom rankings, have 4 or fewer losses, and are 1 or 2 seeds in virtually all brackets thanks to vastly superior resumes. They are Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Virginia.

Before we move on, let’s take a look at Kansas State’s updated resume. I think you’ll agree it looks pretty good. After all the talk of the NET hurting the Big 12, it’s kind of interesting to see a ranking identical to K-State’s KenPom ranking. Also, Tulsa and Texas A&M are very close to becoming Q1 losses.

Kansas State (19-5, 9-2) NET 25, KenPom 25
Quality Wins: at Iowa St. (NET 17), at Oklahoma (41), vs. Texas Tech (10), Kansas (18), at Baylor (32), at Texas (34)
Q1 record: 6-2
Q2 record: 4-3
Worst Losses: at Texas A&M (82), at Tulsa (81)
Road/Neutral Wins: Eastern Kentucky (in the Virgin Islands), Penn (in the VI), Missouri (in the VI), Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St.

So now that we know what we’re comparing, let’s inspect some Tier 2 resumes. These are teams Kansas State is decisively behind right now but could conceivably catch in the final month of the regular season plus conference tournaments. Note that UNC and Michigan State are arguably Tier 1, but UNC still has 2 games left vs. Duke and some other challenges, while Sparty lost to Illinois and Indiana in the not-too-distant past.

Houston (23-1, 10-1 American) NET 5, KenPom 19
Quality Wins: vs. LSU (14), at South Florida (75), at UCF (45), vs. Cincinnati (23)
Q1 record: 4-1
Q2 record: 5-0
Worst Loss: at Temple (55)
Road/Neutral wins: BYU, Oklahoma State, SMU, South Florida, Tulsa, UCF

Kansas (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) NET 19, KenPom 15
Quality Wins: vs. Michigan State (7) in Indy, vs. Marquette (19) in NYC, vs. Tennessee (4) in NYC, vs. Wofford (28), vs. Villanova (21), at Baylor (32) vs. Iowa State (17), vs. Texas Tech (10), at TCU (33)
Q1 record: 9-5
Worst Losses: at West Virginia (115), at Arizona State (72)
Road/Neutral wins: Michigan State in Indy, Marquette in NYC, Tennessee in NYC, Baylor, TCU

Louisville (17-8, 8-4 ACC) NET 16, KenPom 13
Quality Wins: vs. Michigan State (7), at Seton Hall (69), vs. Lipscomb (30), at North Carolina (9), at Virginia Tech (13)
Q1 record: 5-7
Q2 record: 2-1
Worst Losses: at Pittsburgh (101), at Indiana (49)
Road/Neutral wins: Seton Hall, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech

LSU (20-4, 10-1 SEC) NET 14, KenPom 20
Quality Wins: vs. Saint Mary’s (50) in Las Vegas, at Arkansas (63), at Ole Miss (36), at Mississippi St. (27), vs. Auburn (20), at Kentucky (6)
Q1 record: 6-2
Q2 record: 4-2
Worst Losses: vs. Arkansas (63), vs. Oklahoma State in Lake Buena Vista
Road/Neutral wins: Saint Mary’s in Las Vegas, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Kentucky

Marquette (21-4, 10-2 Big East) NET 19, KenPom 26
Quality Wins: vs. Louisville (16) in NYC, vs. Kansas State (25), vs. Wisconsin (15), vs. Buffalo (24), at Creighton (57), at Butler (53), vs. Villanova (21)
Q1 record: 7-3
Q2 record: 5-1
Worst Losses: vs. St. John’s (49), at St. John’s (49)
Road/Neutral wins: at Indiana, vs. Louisville in NYC, at Creighton, at Georgetown, at Xavier, at Butler, at DePaul

Michigan State (11-3, 20-5 Big Ten) NET 7, KenPom 4
Quality Wins: vs. Texas in Las Vegas, vs. Iowa (29), at Florida (42), at Ohio St. (36), vs. Purdue (11), at Penn St. (70), at Nebraska (40), vs. Maryland (22), at Iowa (29), at Wisconsin (15)
Q1 record: 10-2
Q2 record: 3-2
Worst Losses: vs. Indiana (49), at Illinois (91)
Road/Neutral wins: UCLA in Las Vegas, Texas in Las Vegas, Rutgers, Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin

Nevada (23-1, 10-1 MWC) NET 12, KenPom 18
Quality Wins: None
Q1 record: 0-0
Q2 record: 5-0
Worst Loss: at New Mexico (174)
Road/Neutral wins: Tulsa in Las Vegas, UMass in Las Vegas, Arizona State in LA, Grand Canyon in LA, Utah, Fresno State, Boise State, UNLV, Colorado St.

North Carolina (19-5, 9-2 ACC) NET 9, KenPom 8
Quality Wins: at Wofford (28), vs. Gonzaga (2), at NC State (37), vs. Virginia Tech (13), at Louisville (16)
Q1 record: 5-5
Q2 record: 2-0
Worst Losses: vs. Texas (34) in Las Vegas
Road/Neutral wins: Wofford, Elon, UCLA in Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Louisville,

Purdue (17-7, 10-3 Big Ten) NET 11, KenPom 9
Quality Wins: vs. Maryland (22), vs. Iowa (29), at Wisconsin (15), at Ohio State (36), vs. Michigan State (7), at Penn St. (70)
Q1 record: 6-6
Q2 record: 5-1
Worst Losses: vs. Notre Dame (99) in Indy, at Texas (34)
Road/Neutral wins: Appalachian St. in Charleston, Davidson in Charleston, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State

Wisconsin (17-8, 9-5 Big Ten) NET 15 KenPom 12
Quality Wins: Oklahoma (41) in The Bahamas, at Iowa (29), at Penn State (70), vs. Michigan (8), at Nebraska (40), vs. Maryland (22), at Minnesota (58)
Q1 record: 7-6
Q2 record: 4-2
Worst Losses: at Western Kentucky (119), vs. Minnesota (58)
Road/Neutral wins: Xavier, Stanford in The Bahamas, Oklahoma in The Bahamas, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska

Some teams (Nevada, Houston) would just need to lose one for K-State to possibly catch them, but of course the problem there is a weak schedule. Others like Wisconsin, Purdue and Louisville aren’t that far ahead with some tough matchups ahead giving them opportunities to either pull away or fall back to Kansas State’s level. Keep an eye on those teams in the coming weeks.

Finally, we move on to Tier 3, which is of course teams right around K-State in most seeding lists or brackets right now. These are the teams the ‘Cats would likely pass should they win out, or if they just finish the season strong and some of these teams falter. Obviously, Saturday’s game vs. Iowa State looms rather large.

Florida State (19-5, 7-4 ACC) NET 26, KenPom 22
Quality Wins: vs. LSU (14) in Lake Buena Vista, vs. Purdue (11), at Syracuse (47), vs. Louisville (16)
Q1 record: 4-3
Q2 record: 4-2
Worst Losses: at Pittsburgh (101), at Boston College (128)
Road/Neutral wins: Tulane, UAB in Lake Buena Vista, LSU in Lake Buena Vista, UConn in Newark, Saint Louis in Sunrise, Miami, Syracuse

Iowa (19-5, 8-5 Big Ten) NET 29, KenPom 28
Quality Wins: vs. Iowa State (17), at Northwestern (71), at Penn State (70), vs. Michigan (8), at Indiana (49)
Q1 record: 5-5
Q2 record: 5-0
Worst Losses: at Minnesota (58), vs. Wisconsin (15)
Road/Neutral wins: Oregon in NYC, UConn in NYC, Northern Iowa in Iowa City, Indiana

Iowa State (18-6, 7-4 Big 12) NET 17 KenPom 14
Quality Wins: vs. Kansas (18) at Texas Tech (10), at Ole Miss (35), at Oklahoma (41)
Q1 record: 4-4
Q2 record: 3-2
Worst Losses: Arizona (85) in Maui, vs. TCU (33)
Road/Neutral wins: Illinois in Maui, San Diego State in Maui, Drake in Des Moines, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Oklahoma

Maryland (19-6, 10-4 Big Ten) NET 22, KenPom 16
Quality Wins: at Minnesota (58), vs. Wisconsin (15), at Ohio St. (36), at Nebraska (40)
Q1 record: 4-4
Q2 record: 5-1
Worst Losses: vs. Seton Hall (69), vs. Illinois (91)
Road/Neutral wins: Navy, Loyola-Chicago in Baltimore, Rutgers, Minnesota, Ohio State, Nebraska

Texas Tech (20-5, 8-4 Big 12) NET 10, KenPom 10
Quality Wins: Nebraska (40) in KC, Kansas St. (25), at Texas (34), at Oklahoma (41)
Q1 record: 4-5
Q2 record: 6-0
Worst Losses: at Baylor (32), at Kansas State (25)
Road/Neutral wins: USC in KC, Nebraska in KC

Villanova (20-5, 11-1 Big East) NET 21, KenPom 21
Quality Wins: vs. Florida St. (26) in Lake Buena Vista, at Providence (74), at Creighton (57), at Butler (53)
Q1 record: 4-4
Q2 record: 9-1
Worst Losses: vs. Furman (56), at Penn (92)
Road/Neutral wins: vs. Canisius in Lake Buena Vista, vs. Oklahoma State in Lake Buena Vista, vs. UConn in NYC, Providence, Creighton, DePaul

Virginia Tech (19-5, 8-4 ACC) NET 13 KenPom 11
Quality Wins: vs. Purdue (11) in Charleston, vs. Washington (31) in Atlantic City, at NC State (37)
Q1 record: 3-5
Q2 record: 5-0
Worst Losses: at Penn St. (58)
Road/Neutral wins: Ball St. in Charleston, Northeastern in Charleston, Purdue in Charleston, Georgia Tech, Miami.

Comparing resumes with this group, we can clearly see how much those road losses at Tulsa and Texas A&M hurt Kansas State. Without them, the Wildcats are head and shoulders above everyone here thanks to an outstanding Q1 records.

I’m still not exactly sure why the computers like Texas Tech and Virginia Tech so much, but we don’t really know yet how big of a role that could play in the first year of the NET rankings. Villanova doesn’t have many challenges left on its schedule, other than a road game at St. John’s on Sunday and then Marquette at home, but everyone else faces some significant obstacles.

Maryland in particular has a huge two-game road trip coming up at Michigan and Iowa, while Florida State begins three straight road games this Saturday at Georgia Tech, followed by Clemson and UNC.

Obviously, a lot can happen between now and March 17, but hopefully this gives you a clearer picture of where Kansas State sits at the moment.