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Tournament Thursday: Is it Sunday yet?

Kansas State is playing for another trophy this week but the quest for the real prizes begins with the Selection Show.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Baylor
It sure will be nice to have Carti back, and hopefully he’ll be on the court with Dean again in the NCAA tournament.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Honestly, this is the most difficult Tournament Thursday post I’ve had to write all season.

While I don’t quite fully agree with my podcast co-host Eric Rubottom’s comments about the Big 12 tournament being an exhibition since there’s still a trophy and some seeding at stake, it’s hard to get all that excited about K-State’s games this week. The announcement of Dean Wade’s likely absence only made me less interested, although it helps a bit that Cartier Diarra appears to be coming back.

Still, whether the ‘Cats win the whole thing or lose to TCU this afternoon will probably mean the difference between a 3 or a 5 seed, at most, so really I’d rather just fast forward to next week already. Hopefully K-State gets a good draw and gets through to the second weekend, then we’ll just see how far this team can go.

This is actually a strange feeling, since K-State fans around my age are used to either needing a title in KC or at least a deep run to feel good about getting into the Big Dance. Even in years like 2010 or 2013, I was legitimately excited because it felt like the ‘Cats could make a strong run at a title and earn a great NCAA draw (of course, both times they fell to terrific KU teams in the final).

Instead, it feels like the ‘Cats are barely keeping things together and need this week more for recovery than anything else. I’m not one of those people who believes it would be better to lose than play 3 games in 3 days, but I can at least understand the argument, and winning the conference tourney for the first time since 1980 feels like a long shot anyway.

Current status: Lock

The Bracket Project lists K-State as the third-best four-seed, and while it’s still frustrating to be two spots behind Kansas, thats’ actually pretty respectable. Blogging the Bracket’s Chris Dobbertean will put a new bracket out later today, but his Wednesday version lists Kansas State as a 4 seed matched up against Old Dominion, which opens the Conference USA tournament as the top seed today.

Esteemed commenter Razdad gives Kansas State his last 4 seed, and his 13 seeds as of now are Liberty, Vermont, UC Irvine and Northeastern. He still has 8 Big 12 teams in the bracket, with Texas Tech a 3, Kansas as a 4, Iowa State a 7, Baylor an 8, Oklahoma a 9, TCU a 10, and Texas a 12 as the very last team in the field. The other “Last 4 in” are Temple, Creighton and Florida, while the First 4 Out are NC State, Indiana, Clemson and Belmont. I sure hope he’s wrong about the Bruins.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi likes K-State as a 4 against Vermont and Jerry Palm of CBS likes the Wildcats as a 4 seed against Northeastern. Both of those teams already earned their auto-bids. It’s also worth noting just about everyone believes KSU will be sent out to San Jose. Meh.

Nonconference play

Five of these teams are done and eliminated from the NCAA tournament, leaving only Penn (who will lose to Harvard Satuday), Mizzou (who will lose to Auburn today), Marquette, Tulsa, Sun Belt regular season champion Georgia State, Southern Miss, George Mason and Texas A&M (who will lose to Mississippi St. today).

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 (6-26) NET 341 (+2) KenPom 339 (-1)
64-56 vs. Denver (8-22) NET 322 (-2) KenPom 312 (-1)
95-68 vs. Eastern Kentucky (13-18) in Virgin Islands NET 270 (-20) KenPom 237 (+8)
64-48 vs. Penn (19-11) in Virgin Islands NET 112 (+3) KenPom 118 (+7)
82-67 vs. Missouri (15-16) in Virgin Islands NET 92 (-4) KenPom 68 (+27)
77-58 vs. Lehigh (20-11) NET 156 (-4) KenPom 171 (-9)
71-83 at Marquette (23-6) NET 26 (-7) KenPom 30 (-2)
46-47 at Tulsa (18-13) NET 98 (-5) KenPom 120 (+2)
59-71 vs. Georgia State (22-9) NET 136 (-2) KenPom 122 (+9)
55-51 vs. Southern Miss (19-11) NET 106 (-4) KenPom 99 (+20)
69-58 vs. Vanderbilt (9-21) in KC NET 144 (-13) KenPom 157 (-14)
59-58 vs. George Mason (17-14) NET 151 (-3) KenPom 153 (+4)
53-65 at Texas A&M (14-17) NET 79 (-1) KenPom 86 (+8)

Kudos to Southern Miss for ending the season with a pair of wins to finish tied for second in Conference USA. Perhaps they can make a run, and it sure wouldn’t hurt to see Tulsa do a little damage in the weak American bracket.

Missouri picked up its second win over Georgia in 8 days to advance to the second round of the SEC tourney, so that was cool. Hopefully Marquette can at least get past St. John’s at the Big East tournament.

Last week

Not much to say here that hasn’t already been said several times. As expected, Kansas State handled Oklahoma on Senior Night to capture a share of the Big 12 regular season title. It was a special moment at Bramlage and an accomplishment that will enshrine this team in history regardless of what happens over the next 11 days.

This week

Kansas State goes for its third win against TCU, which barely survived a furious rally by Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Given the Horned Frogs lack of depth and elite talent, this is definitely a game the Wildcats should be able to win even without Dean Wade plus some other more minor injuries.

The semifinal could be a little tricky with the way Iowa State and Baylor can shoot the three on occasion, but strong defense should go a long ways. We’ll see if the Wildcats can do enough to earn a spot in Saturday’s final, most likely against Kansas or fellow Big 12 champion Texas Tech.

Chasing seeds

Kansas State locked up the No. 1 seed in Kansas City, so now it’s time to see how the ‘Cats could earn a three seed in the NCAA tourney. The reality K-State would probably need some help from othes to get there, but I’ll just keep telling myself it’s definitely possible.

However, it’s not possible for the Wildcats to catch the Tier 1 teams, which include Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Virginia. Feel free to root against all of them in their conference tourneys anyway.

Here’s our final look at Kansas State’ resume, which is pretty solid other than the still somewhat weak computer numbers, especially a KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency ranking of 102nd in the country. Fortunately, the record plus all the quality wins provide plenty of strength.

Kansas State (24-7, 14-4) NET 27, KenPom 23
Quality Wins: at Iowa St. (NET 14), at Oklahoma (41), vs. Texas Tech (10), Kansas (17), at Baylor (35), at Texas (37), at TCU (52)
Q1 record: 7-4
Q2 record: 7-3
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 we move on to Tier 2, teams that are slightly better than the ‘Cats but still catchable, barely. K-State would need to catch all but two of these teams in order to sneak into a 3 seed.

Houston (28-2, 15-1 American) NET 4, KenPom 13
Quality Wins: vs. LSU (13), at UCF (29), vs. Cincinnati (27), at Cincinnati (27)
Q1 record: 4-2
Q2 record: 7-0
Worst Loss: at Temple (57), vs. UCF (29)
Road/Neutral wins: BYU, Oklahoma State, SMU, South Florida, Tulsa, UCF, UConn, Tulane, East Carolina, Cincinnati

Kansas (23-8, 12-6 Big 12) NET 18, KenPom 16
Quality Wins: vs. Michigan State (8) in Indy, vs. Marquette (26) in NYC, vs. Tennessee (4) in NYC, vs. Wofford (14), vs. Villanova (25), at Baylor (36) vs. Iowa State (17), vs. Texas Tech (10), at TCU (52), vs. Kansas State (27)
Q1 record: 10-7
Q2 record: 7-1
Worst Losses: at West Virginia (114), at Arizona State (68)
Road/Neutral wins: Michigan State in Indy, Marquette in NYC, Tennessee in NYC, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma St.

Purdue (23-8, 16-4 Big Ten) NET 11, KenPom 10
Quality Wins: vs. Maryland (28), at Wisconsin (15), at Ohio State (43), vs. Michigan State (8), at Penn St. (49), at Indiana (56), at Nebraska (53)
Q1 record: 7-7
Q2 record: 8-1
Worst Losses: vs. Notre Dame (104) in Indy, at Minnesota (54)
Road/Neutral wins: Appalachian St. in Charleston, Davidson in Charleston, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Nebraska

Houston’s thrashing of Cincinnati on the road nearly puts the Cougars out of reach, but they do face a potential bad loss in Memphis tomorrow against either South Florida or UConn. It’ll be somewhat interesting to see what the committee thinks of the American’s teams this season.

Purdue shared a Big Ten title with Michigan State by beating Northwestern and of course, KU held off Baylor without too much trouble on Saturday. The Boilermakers probably just need to reach the final to stay ahead of K-State no matter what, while I’d like to think the ‘Cats knocking off Kansas in a Big 12 final would leave an impression good enough to give the 3 seed to KSU.

We move on to Tier 3 teams, which are the ones very similar to Kansas State. Simply reaching the final could be enough to keep the Wildcats seeded ahead of all these teams. Villanova and Marquette are gone after closing out the regular season with losses to Seton Hall and Georgetown, respectively.

Buffalo (28-3, 16-2 MAC) NET 16, KenPom 25
Quality Wins: at Syracuse (42), at Toledo (60)
Q1 record: 2-1
Q2 record: 5-1
Worst Losses: at Northern Illinois (148), at Bowling Green (121)
Road/Neutral wins: West Virginia, Southern Illinois, Milwaukee in Belfast, San Francisco in Belfast, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, Western Michigan, Kent St., Akron, Toledo, Miami (OH), Ohio

Florida State (25-6, 13-5 ACC) NET 19, KenPom 16
Quality Wins: vs. LSU (13) in Lake Buena Vista, vs. Purdue (12), at Syracuse (44), vs. Louisville (21), at Clemson (43), Virginia Tech (12)
Q1 record: 6-4
Q2 record: 6-2
Worst Losses: at Pittsburgh (127), at Boston College (113)
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, Wake Forest

Maryland (20-7, 11-5 Big Ten) NET 23, KenPom 20
Quality Wins: at Minnesota (61), vs. Wisconsin (15), at Ohio St. (40), at Nebraska (45)
Q1 record: 5-8
Q2 record: 7-1
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. (22-9, 10-8 SEC) NET 23 KenPom 24
Quality Wins: at Dayton (71), vs. Cincinnati (22), vs. Wofford (14), vs. Auburn (20), at Ole Miss (37), at Arkansas (73)
Q1 record: 6-6
Q2 record: 5-3
Worst Losses: vs. Arizona State (68), at South Carolina (81)
Road/Neutral wins: Dayton, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia,

Virginia Tech (24-7, 12-6 ACC) NET 12 KenPom 11
Quality Wins: vs. Purdue (11) in Charleston, vs. Washington (33) in New Jersey, vs. Duke (3)
Q1 record: 3-7
Q2 record: 8-0
Worst Losses: at Penn St. (49)
Road/Neutral wins: Ball St. in Charleston, Northeastern in Charleston, Purdue in Charleston, Washington in New Jersey, Georgia Tech, Miami, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame

Wisconsin (22-9, 14-6 Big Ten) NET 12 KenPom 12
Quality Wins: Oklahoma (38) in The Bahamas, at Iowa (41), at Penn State (49), vs. Michigan (9), at Nebraska (53), vs. Maryland (28), at Minnesota (54)
Q1 record: 8-7
Q2 record: 7-2
Worst Losses: at Western Kentucky (119), vs. Minnesota (54)
Road/Neutral wins: Xavier, Stanford in The Bahamas, Oklahoma in The Bahamas, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State

Florida State just keeps winning and will have as many opportunities as anyone to pick up quality wins in the conference tournament. The same can’t be said Buffalo, but it’s hard to predict how the committee will treat the Bulls should they run their win streak to 12 games in Cleveland.

Virginia Tech won two in a row against Miami to get to the tough part of the ACC tourney, starting with a game against Florida State that is both good and bad for the ‘Cats. Wisconsin picked up another Q1 win at Ohio State. Those two teams could also get chances to knock off top 10 teams.

Games to watch

Now that you’ve seen the resumes of K-State’s competition for 3 and 4 seeds, you probably also want to know when they’re playing. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s the information on how to find these games. All times are CT and I’ll try to update these games as they go final.

Buffalo 82 vs. Akron 46
Florida State 65 vs. Virginia Tech 63 (OT)
Maryland 61 vs. Nebraska 69
Kansas 65 vs. Texas 57
Mississippi St. 80 vs. Texas A&M 54

Houston 84 vs. UConn 45
Wisconsin 66 vs. Nebraska 62
Buffalo 85 vs. Central Michigan 82
Purdue 73 vs. Minnesota 75
Florida St. 69 vs. Virginia 59
Kansas 88 vs. West Virginia 74
Mississippi State 76 vs. Tennessee 83

Houston 61 vs. Memphis 58
Wisconsin 55 vs. Michigan St. 67
Kansas 66 vs. Iowa State 78
Buffalo 87 vs. Bowling Green 73
Florida State 63 vs. Duke 73

Houston vs. Wichita State/Cincinnati, 2:15 p.m. (ESPN)