There are certainly those who would take me to task for what I'm about to say, and that's fine. I should probably, then, make one thing entirely clear before proceeding:
Speaking as an alum and supporter of the program, I would be absolutely thrilled if K-State's men's basketball team were to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Speaking as a rational and impartial journalist, it would be the worst travesty ever to occur on Selection Sunday.
Look, there is indisputably no more interesting at-large candidate this year, and possibly ever. The sheer number of quality victims hanging on the wall at Bramlage this season is mind-boggling, and when you throw in the near-win over Arizona back in Maui it becomes even more impressive.
But there are a couple of things standing in the way. One is rather obvious: no team has ever even lost 15 games and received an at-large invitation, much less the 16 losses which will be required for K-State to get there.
The other is more aesthetic, for me. It is the very core of the argument as to who belongs in the tournament in the first place. For years and years, I have loudly and violently decried the overwhelming bias toward the big six conferences when it comes to selecting at-large entrants. The systems on which we base strength of schedule are, to my mind, horrifically flawed.
Presume, for the sake of argument, that the Big 12 is 10% better than the ACC. That doesn't seem like much, does it? It just means that if all 10 Big 12 teams played 10 ACC teams, you'd still expect the Big 12 to go 6-4 or 5-5.
Now presume the ACC is 10% better than the Big 10. And the Big 10 is 10% better than the Big East. And the Big East is 10% better than the Pac 12. And so on.
Congratulations. You've now presumed a scenario where the mathematical probability of Texas Southern beating both Michigan State and Kansas State on their home courts is essentially so improbable as to be impossible.
The gap between the top and the bottom is not as wide as people think. Yes, the Big 12 is a vastly better league than the SWAC, and I'm certainly not trying to argue that the NCAA Tournament would be improved by having two SWAC teams involved. There will always be several conferences which quite obviously only deserve one bid.
But you look at Bobby Bracketologist's analysis this week, and what are you going to see? Only one conference outside the Big Six has two teams considered locks: The Valley. The American (SMU) and Atlantic 10 (VCU) each only have one lock, and no other teams widely considered to be in the field at this moment. The Mountain West doesn't even have a lock. And the only teams outside those 10 conferences which are even getting serious discussion as an at-large are BYU and Old Dominion (with Gonzaga, obviously, a lock -- but, just as obviously, no longer one of the "little guys" either).
Meanwhile, analysts are discussing ridiculous concepts such as Miami, Pitt, Illinois, Texas, and... yes, Kansas State. (The Daily Texan's Jasmine Johnson even notes that Joe Lunardi views Saturday's K-State/Texas game as a potential bubble contest for both teams.) For ages, I've carried on a running battle with Big East fans (well, the old Big East anyway), mostly aimed at Syracuse fans who throw a fit around the end of February because their 12-loss squad which is bobbing around eighth place in the conference isn't considered a lock. I'm sorry, but the NCAA tournament is designed to determine the national champion. If there are seven teams in your own conference better than your team, how can you even argue with a straight face that you deserve a chance to prove you're the best in the entire nation?
I am not arguing that North Carolina Central (22-6 and now holders of the nation's second-longest home winning streak) or Murray State (26-4) or Wofford (25-6) or Stephen F. Austin (24-4) should be locks, and in all likelihood these teams will make any such argument irrelevant in the next week or two.
But -- and, again, I say this as someone who will cast all this aside and without hesitation break out the purple wardrobe in two weeks if K-State does get in -- they're all absolutely more deserving of being in the conversation than any Power 5 team sitting five games out of first place in their own league. So why aren't they?
Simple. Money -- not just television money, but the desire of the big boys to make sure that the vast majority of that television money stays in their own hands. Every mid-major that beats out a power conference team for an at-large bid is (a) money the big boys don't get and (b) money which the mid-majors use to tighten the gap even further. And, as the Oklahoman's Berry Tramel reports, the committee leans in favor of big-name programs over Cinderella... well, pretty much always.
And we can't have that, can we?
Having said all that, who's openly stating that the Wildcats are not in fact dead and buried? Aside from Lunardi, we've got Myron Medcalf at ESPN, Shelby Mast of the Indianpolis Star, Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News, Matt Zemek of the Student Section, Jason Franchuk, Bleacher Report's Arizona writer (propping up Arizona's #1 seed argument, of course), NBC's Rob Dauster, .
On the other hand, another Sporting News columnist -- Mike DeCourcy -- says "No way, dude."
The New York Post's Phil Muschnick thinks court storming is a worse problem than coaches manhandling and cursing at their players. Um, okay. The editorial board at the Oklahoman is engaging in some solid hand-wringing, too. And Lawrence Journal-World photographer Nick Krug -- under a headline that's maybe a little too sensationalistic for the content -- describes the preparations he makes, as a professional on the court, for a potential student invasion.
The BatCats fell behind early and couldn't recover in a 6-2 loss at Cal in the first sub-par outing of the season from Colton Kalmus. On the other hand, for the sixth time in seven games the Wildcats mounted a ninth-inning rally, leading one to believe we're going to be in for a crazy season. They'll conclude the series starting at noon today with Corey Fischer facing Cal's Matt Ladrech.
Yes, we need a Soccer heading. But we still don't have one, so: Gabe Romo, formerly the head coach for both the men and women at Holy Names University in Oakland, has joined Mike Dibbini's staff as his first assistant.
Finally: you may not agree with his opinions all the time, but ESPN's Ivan Maisel is one of the industry's good guys. Please spare him a moment of your thoughts, as his son Max, a student at Rochester Institute of Technology, is missing -- and the situation is looking grim.
Ed. Note: We originally left Gonzaga out of the conversation above, but probably should have at least noted their presence. That's been clarified now.