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Tournament Thursday: Offensive offense

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Kansas State’s elite defense isn’t good enough when the offense goes stagnant and the shots stop falling.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Kansas
Kansas State’s offense simply wasn’t good enough in Lawrence.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For two glorious days, Kansas State ranked among the top 100 teams in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency ratings.

Then the Wildcats visited Lawrence and gave us a painful reminder of what’s most likely to be this team’s downfall come March. Kansas State shot 31.6% from the field, stood around and watched dribblers far too much, and failed to score 50 points for the third time this season.

Hopefully things will get better if Dean Wade gets healthier and Cartier Diarra returns from injury. Ideally the ‘Cats can learn from the film how to cover up their weaknesses so other teams won’t expose them.

But the reality is there aren’t a lot of dangerous offensive weapons on this team, especially when the frontcourt gets into foul trouble. It would be a stretch to call any Kansas State player an elite outside shooter, although Dean is great for his position, and Kamau Stokes, Barrry Brown and Xavier Sneed all have their moments.

It would be nice to see a few more second-chance points, and as I’ve mentioned many times before, I’d love to see K-State push the ball up the court more often. The most important thing to remember is because of the Wildcats’ defense, their offense doesn’t need to be great. It just needs to be competent most nights. Surely that’s not too much to ask.

Current status: Lock

Kansas State didn’t really hurt itself with a loss in Lawrence, although it missed a significant opportunity to move up. As a result, the Wildcats find themselves as a 5 seed according to The Bracket Project, just one spot above struggling Iowa State.

Esteemed commenter RazDad puts Kansas State as the top 6 seed, just behind Iowa State Nevada and Florida State. Buffalo, Mississippi State and Cincinnati lurk just behind the Wildcats.

Joe Lunardi’s Tuesday bracketolgoy gives K-State a 6 seed against Alabama and Andy Katz puts the ‘Cats at a 5 seed matched up against the Tigers of either Auburn or Clemson. SI’s Michael Beller also gave Kansas State a 5 seed and somehow still has Lipscomb as a 12, while SB Nation’s Chris Dobbertean put Kansas State on the 5 line in his latest seeding list.

Nonconference play

Every single noncon opponent lost at least one game. But at least some of them also won one, I guess.

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 (5-25) NET 343 (-3) KenPom 342 (-2)
64-56 vs. Denver (7-21) NET 320 (-8) KenPom 319 (-4)
95-68 vs. Eastern Kentucky (12-17) in Virgin Islands NET 270 (-20) KenPom 245 (+4)
64-48 vs. Penn (16-10) in Virgin Islands NET 115 (-23) KenPom 138 (-3)
82-67 vs. Missouri (12-15) in Virgin Islands NET 92 (-4) KenPom 95 (+3)
77-58 vs. Lehigh (19-9) NET 152 (+1) KenPom 153 (+3)
71-83 at Marquette (23-5) NET 19 (+0) KenPom 24 (+1)
46-47 at Tulsa (16-12) NET 93 (-12) KenPom 124 (-2)
59-71 vs. Georgia State (19-9) NET 134 (+1) KenPom 136 (-5)
55-51 vs. Southern Miss (17-10) NET 102 (+19) KenPom 119 (-6)
69-58 vs. Vanderbilt (9-19) in KC NET 131 (-6) KenPom 133 (-8)
59-58 vs. George Mason (16-12) NET 148 (-11) KenPom 146 (+1)
53-65 at Texas A&M (12-15) NET 78 (+4) KenPom 81 (+13)

jeffp171

Marquette missed a chance to essentially wrap up the Big East title by losing at Villanova but still controls its own destiny with a favorable schedule ahead. Sound familiar?

Texas A&M got a strong win at Arkansas and Missouri moved up 3 spots despite losing both games. Good for the Tigers. George Mason lost at home to Duquesne, which is really not good at all.

Last week

Kansas State blew away Oklahoma State and then lost at Kansas because essentially winning the Big 12 in Lawrence would have been just too perfect. I understand the level of defense was considerably different, but that cannot be the only explanation for why the ‘Cats went from scoring 85 points in one game to 49 in the next. It’s still too frustrating to discuss it further.

This week

Kansas State will clinch a Big 12 title or not this week because as inconsistent as this team has been at times, I refuse to believe it could lose to Oklahoma on Senior Night. The Sooners just aren’t that good and K-State’s still pretty tough to beat at home.

A similar argument could be made for Baylor, but the Bears made a really impressive comeback Wednesday to beat Texas and extend their winning streak to three games. They also won in Ames, so it’s clear this team can do some damage and the ‘Cats absolutely cannot afford a letdown in Bramlage on Saturday.

TCU, meanwhile, looks pretty terrible with two recent road losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia, But the Horned Frogs also beat Iowa State over the weekend to improve to 12-3 at home, so it would be foolish to chalk this one up as an automatic win.

Basically, we’ve got two games Kansas State should win, but any sort of lapse could result in a very frustrating loss. We’ll see what happens. To be honest, I’m bracing myself and hoping for the best.

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. There’s also not a lot left to say about 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.

We’ll start with Tier 1, the list of teams K-State won’t surpass unless they have a massive collapse. Regrettably, it’s time to move Kansas into this group after the game in Lawrence, and the Jayhawks are joined by Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, North Carolina, Purdue, Tennessee and Virginia. Basically, reaching a 3 seed would take a miracle at this point.

Before we move on, let’s take a look at Kansas State’s updated resume. All those poor offensive efficiency games are still holding the Wildcats’ computer numbers back, but everything else still looks pretty solid.

Kansas State (21-7, 11-4) NET 27, KenPom 28
Quality Wins: at Iowa St. (NET 14), at Oklahoma (41), vs. Texas Tech (10), Kansas (17), at Baylor (35), at Texas (37)
Q1 record: 6-4
Q2 record: 5-3
Worst Losses: at Texas A&M (69), at Tulsa (92)
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. Houston is honestly good enough to be in Tier 1, but any loss other than maybe at Cincinnati would be so detrimental to the Cougars that we’ll leave them here for now.

Houston (25-7-1, 14-1 American) NET 4, KenPom 14
Quality Wins: vs. LSU (13), at UCF (34), vs. Cincinnati (25)
Q1 record: 3-1
Q2 record: 7-0
Worst Loss: at Temple (56)
Road/Neutral wins: BYU, Oklahoma State, SMU, South Florida, Tulsa, UCF, UConn, Tulane, East Carolina

LSU (31-5, 13-2 SEC) NET 13, KenPom 21
Quality Wins: vs. Saint Mary’s (39) in Las Vegas, at Arkansas (73), at Ole Miss (38), at Mississippi St. (22), vs. Auburn (24), at Kentucky (5), at Alabama (49)
Q1 record: 7-3
Q2 record: 5-2
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, Georgia, Alabama

Marquette (23-5, 12-3 Big East) NET 18, KenPom 24
Quality Wins: vs. Louisville (21) in NYC, vs. Kansas State (27), vs. Wisconsin (15), vs. Buffalo (16), at Creighton (57), at Butler (52), vs. Villanova (28), at Georgetown (74)
Q1 record: 8-4
Q2 record: 6-1
Worst Losses: vs. St. John’s (48), at St. John’s (48)
Road/Neutral wins: Indiana, Louisville in NYC, Creighton, Georgetown, Xavier, Butler, DePaul, Providence

Texas Tech (23-5, 11-4 Big 12) NET 10, KenPom 19
Quality Wins: Nebraska (45) in KC, Kansas St. (27), at Texas (37), at Oklahoma (41), vs. Kansas (17)
Q1 record: 5-5
Q2 record: 8-0
Worst Losses: at Baylor (33), at Kansas State (25)
Road/Neutral wins: USC in KC, Nebraska in KC, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

LSU looks very good and could be the next team to move up into Tier 1, while Texas Tech earned its spot here by blowing out KU before barely holding off Oklahoma State at home. It was a weird week.

Finally, we move on to Tier 3, which is of course teams right around K-State in most seeding lists or brackets right now. The ‘Cats need to keep winning to beat out most of these teams.

Buffalo (25-3, 13-2 MAC) NET 16, KenPom 19
Quality Wins: at Syracuse (44), at Toledo (62)
Q1 record: 0-0
Q2 record: 3-1
Worst Losses: at Northern Illinois (150), at Bowling Green (113)
Road/Neutral wins: West Virginia, Southern Illinois, Milwaukee in Belfast, San Francisco in Belfast, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, Western Michigan, Kent St., Akron, Toledo

Cincinnati (24-4, 13-2 AAC) NET 25, KenPom 30
Quality Wins: vs. Ole Miss in Niceville (FL), at Temple (56), at Memphis (53)
Q1 record: 3-2
Q2 record: 7-1
Worst Losses: at East Carolina (250), vs. Ohio State (40)
Road/Neutral wins: George Mason in Niceville (FL), Ole Miss in Niceville (FL), UNLV, Tulsa, Wichita State, Temple, Memphis, UConn, SMU,

Florida State (22-6, 9-4 ACC) NET 26, KenPom 17
Quality Wins: vs. LSU (13) in Lake Buena Vista, vs. Purdue (12), at Syracuse (44), vs. Louisville (21), at Clemson (43)
Q1 record: 5-4
Q2 record: 5-2
Worst Losses: at Pittsburgh (113), at Boston College (124)
Road/Neutral wins: Tulane, UAB in Lake Buena Vista, LSU in Lake Buena Vista, UConn in Newark, Saint Louis in Sunrise, Miami, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Clemson

Iowa (21-7, 10-7 Big Ten) NET 32, KenPom 32
Quality Wins: vs. Iowa State (14), at Penn State (59), vs. Michigan (9), at Indiana (55)
Q1 record: 4-7
Q2 record: 7-0
Worst Losses: at Minnesota (51), 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 14 KenPom 13
Quality Wins: vs. Kansas (17) at Texas Tech (10), at Ole Miss (38), at Oklahoma (41), vs. Kansas State (27)
Q1 record: 5-5
Q2 record: 4-2
Worst Losses: Arizona (88) in Maui, vs. TCU (41)
Road/Neutral wins: Illinois in Maui, San Diego State in Maui, Drake in Des Moines, Oklahoma St., Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Rutgers

Louisville (18-11, 9-7 ACC) NET 21, KenPom 23
Quality Wins: vs. Michigan State (6), at Seton Hall (64), at North Carolina (8), at Virginia Tech (11)
Q1 record: 4-9
Q2 record: 4-2
Worst Losses: at Boston College (127), at Pittsburgh (113)
Road/Neutral wins: Seton Hall, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech

Maryland (20-7, 11-5 Big Ten) NET 23, KenPom 18
Quality Wins: at Minnesota (61), vs. Wisconsin (15), at Ohio St. (40), at Nebraska (45)
Q1 record: 5-6
Q2 record: 5-1
Worst Losses: vs. Seton Hall (64), vs. Illinois (90)
Road/Neutral wins: Navy, Loyola-Chicago in Baltimore, Rutgers, Minnesota, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa

Mississippi St. (21-7, 9-6 SEC) NET 22 KenPom 20
Quality Wins: at Dayton (68), vs. Cincinnati (25), vs. Wofford (20), vs. Auburn (24), at Ole Miss (38), at Arkansas (73)
Q1 record: 6-4
Q2 record: 5-3
Worst Losses: vs. Arizona State (63)
Road/Neutral wins: Dayton, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia,

Nevada (26-2, 13-2 MWC) NET 19, KenPom 20
Quality Wins: None
Q1 record: 0-0
Q2 record: 5-0
Worst Losses: at New Mexico (172), at San Diego St. (132)
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., Wyoming

Villanova (21-8, 12-4 Big East) NET 28, KenPom 29
Quality Wins: vs. Florida St. (26) in Lake Buena Vista, at Providence (78), at Creighton (57), at Butler (52), vs. Marquette (18)
Q1 record: 6-6
Q2 record: 8-2
Worst Losses: vs. Furman (44), at Georgetown (71)
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 (20-6, 9-5 ACC) NET 11 KenPom 11
Quality Wins: vs. Purdue (12) in Charleston, vs. Washington (29) in Atlantic City, at NC State (30), vs. Duke (3)
Q1 record: 4-6
Q2 record: 7-0
Worst Losses: at Penn St. (59)
Road/Neutral wins: Ball St. in Charleston, Northeastern in Charleston, Purdue in Charleston, Georgia Tech, Miami, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame

Wisconsin (19-9, 11-6 Big Ten) NET 12 KenPom 12
Quality Wins: Oklahoma (41) in The Bahamas, at Iowa (32), at Penn State (59), vs. Michigan (9), at Nebraska (45), vs. Maryland (23), at Minnesota (60)
Q1 record: 7-7
Q2 record: 5-2
Worst Losses: at Western Kentucky (119), vs. Minnesota (58)
Road/Neutral wins: Xavier, Stanford in The Bahamas, Oklahoma in The Bahamas, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern

We welcome Mississippi State thanks to a five-game win streak, but we’ll find out if the Bulldogs are real this week in road games at Auburn and Tennessee. Virginia Tech also makes a nice move upward with a win over Zion Williamson-less Duke.

Iowa might be in freefall after getting beat by 20 at Ohio State, but we’ll see if the Hawkeyes can bounce back against Rutgers and at Wisconsin before we declare them dead and gone. Iowa State’s not in a great spot either with road games coming up at Texas and West Virginia.

Louisville’s loss at Boston College was a rough one and so was Maryland’s loss at Penn State. Those are the kinds of games that really need to be avoided this time of year.

Overall, Kansas State’s still in pretty good shape for a 5 seed and a 4 seed is very much in play. The Wildcats probably can’t hurt themselves too much with a single loss from here on out, but they also don’t have any big opportunities until the Big 12 tourney.