Few college basketball teams have spent more time on the NCAA Tournament bubble than Kansas State this season.
Every time it looks like the Wildcats are on the verge of moving up in bracket projections, they lose a game and fall back into uncertain territory.
Such was the case last week when K-State boosted its postseason stock by winning at Texas 67-64 only to weaken it three days later by losing at home to Texas Tech 66-47.
“We know we have to win a few more games to be a higher seed, and we really haven’t been doing that, stringing wins along,” K-State guard Barry Brown said. “Once we start stringing wins along, we will be a higher seed.”
CBS and ESPN both project the Wildcats to make the field of 68 as one of the tournament’s final at-large teams. They can improve their fate starting Wednesday with a road game against Oklahoma State. At 17-8 and 6-6 in the Big 12, K-State can go anywhere from here. Six games remain in the regular season, giving Bruce Weber’s team several opportunities to earn a secure spot in the NCAA Tournament.
That is the goal.
“We got the same projections last year and we made some things happen,” K-State guard Kamau Stokes said. “I feel like we are going to make some things happen this year to where we are definitely in the tournament, instead of a play-in game.”
A 4-2 closing record would likely be enough for the Wildcats to feel good about their NCAA Tournament chances, and that seems within reach given that they have already defeated the six remaining teams on the schedule. But that’s not their current focus.
“I don’t know if there is a number,” Weber said. “All we can do is worry about one. That gets us closer to two and that gets us closer to three. That’s all we can worry about. Our league is really good. The depth of the league is amazing. Just think what happened Saturday. Only one of the top six teams won, and that was Texas Tech beating us. I hope there is some appreciation for that.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew made a postseason case for the vast majority of the Big 12 following a double overtime victory at Texas on Monday, saying nine teams deserved to make the NCAA Tournament.
“In some ways it might be deserving,” Weber said. “If you are going to put nine from the ACC or some of these other leagues that don’t play the pure double round robin why can’t you put nine from us?”
Oklahoma State is trying to join the NCAA Tournament conversation coming off big wins at Kansas and West Virginia. A victory over K-State would enhance its resume. This could be an intense game.
K-State might as well get used to it. Every game feels this way on the bubble.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett