Kansas State Q&A: Can the Wildcats make the NCAA Tournament?

DJ Johnson slams in a dunk in the 2nd half Saturday evening in Bramlage Coliseum as the Wildcats defeated Oklahoma State 89-73. (AP PHOTO/Bo Rader, The Wichita Eagle
DJ Johnson slams in a dunk in the 2nd half Saturday evening in Bramlage Coliseum as the Wildcats defeated Oklahoma State 89-73. (AP PHOTO/Bo Rader, The Wichita Eagle Wichita Eagle

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Let’s dive head first into your questions. Thanks, as always, for asking them.

The Wildcats popped up as one of the first teams out of some bracket projections this week. That may sound strange considering their 2-6 conference record, but with a solid RPI of 44 they could make a run at March Madness with a strong finish. I think it will take 20 victories to earn an invitation, so that means K-State needs eight more wins. I doubt the Wildcats can hit that number, but it’s not impossible. The schedule eases up in February.

A win over Ole Miss on Saturday will be a must. Then they will have to sweep (or come close to sweeping) their five remaining home games against Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas, Texas and TCU. Bruce Weber’s team is 10-2 at home, so a 4-1 mark the rest of the way isn’t unthinkable. I would pick them to beat Kansas, Texas and TCU. I would give them a chance against Oklahoma and Baylor.

Let’s say they win three, plus Ole Miss. That leaves four more victories.

The harder part may be winning on the road, which is something Weber’s team rarely does in conference play. K-State has lost 11 straight Big 12 road games. Beating Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech (or at least two of those three) on the road will also be essential. Otherwise, they will need to pick up wins at Kansas or Iowa State. Of those games, I would only favor K-State at TCU. I would give them a chance in Stillwater and Lubbock.

Let’s say they beat TCU and win one game in the Big 12 Tournament. That’s 18 projected victories. That means K-State will have to win two games you wouldn’t expect in order to make a serious push for a NCAA Tournament spot.

The fairer question, I think, is what will it take for K-State to reach the NIT? I’m pretty sure 19 wins would do it. Maybe it would only take 18. Depends on how many at-large spots the tournament has available. But 18 wins is doable. There is also the CBI or one of those lower tournaments to consider.

Anyway, here are my percentages:

NCAA Tournament: 20 percent.

NIT: 50 percent.

CBI: 100 percent, if the team wants to keep playing.

No postseason: See above.

The RPI loves Texas Tech, though. A ranking of 32 is what has the Red Raiders more on the bubble than K-State.

Both teams need to push for 20 wins if they hope to actually make the NCAA Tournament.

In this particular case, I assume it is because of the way the Wildcats played. West Virginia dominated that game.

But I agree the sky-is-falling reaction from some fans is a bit much. The January schedule was brutal. Five of the nine games were against top 20 teams, and three of those were on the road. It’s certainly disappointing K-State couldn’t seal the deal against West Virginia, Texas or Baylor when those games were all there for the taking, but it’s not like they were terrible losses. There is time to turn things around against an easier schedule. I agree there is hope. You could make an argument this team is making progress and nearing a breakthrough.

Then again, Weber gets paid millions to win basketball games, and his team is 0-7 against ranked opponents. So some frustration is justified.

I have no idea.

Weber said that on Tuesday after K-State lost to West Virginia near the end of a meandering answer to a question about why the team struggled to score three days after dropping 89 on Oklahoma State. I was taken back by it and listened to the quote four or five times on my recorder to make sure I got it right. Then I asked other beat writers in the media room if they heard the same thing. Just a very strange thing to say.

I mean, I agree with him in the sense that I didn’t expect K-State to win at West Virginia. The Wildcats have lost 11 straight Big 12 road games. That streak wasn’t going to end in Morgantown. But the coach isn’t supposed to say that. Texas just won there as an unranked team. And K-State lost to West Virginia in double overtime in their first meeting. An upset wasn’t impossible. Here’s guessing it was a stream-of-consciousness answer that Weber blurts out from time to time.

It’s doubtful he used that statement in his pregame speech to players. But I guess that would explain the loss if he did.

He’s shown a decent amount of development this season. Remember when every opposing coach compared him to Scottie Pippen early in the year? Well, he hasn’t put up many Jordan sidekick numbers lately, and he’s losing too many turnovers. But he is the team’s best player. The issue is he took a step back last year, so his development has gone up and down instead of steadily up.

Yeah, it’s not good. He’s 3-19 in conference road games the past three seasons. K-State can look like a different team at home vs. on the road.

That sounds fair. South Carolina’s schedule has been toilet-paper soft, so its 18-2 record is deceiving. K-State’s schedule has been Brillo-Pad rough. The Wildcats have a slight KenPom advantage (39 to 45) so give them a very minor edge.

I would love to see that game at least once, particularly in Bramlage. Maybe the Big 12/SEC Challenge can make it happen down the road.

I understand being frustrated about K-State’s record the past two seasons, but in all fairness: Weber is 74-46 with a Big 12 championship and two NCAA Tournament appearances at K-State. His worst conference finish has been sixth. That’s far from the cellar. Could things be better? Sure, but his job is safe in the short term.

Given enough time, I could maybe think of something, but that’s not going to happen. The highway leading to Manhattan is named after Bill Snyder. So is the football stadium. And his statue welcomes fans to games. He’s also taken K-State to six straight bowls. Snyder will retire for good only when he is ready to do so.

Fans have asked me about Weber getting fired since the day John Currie hired him, so that doesn’t surprise me. The recent lack of patience with Snyder is somewhat surprising, but the football team did just go 6-7. It’s that way everywhere, unless you’re Nick Saban. Look at what Les Miles went through this year at LSU. And his team was good! There are people that think Bill Self should be fired for the Jayhawks’ recent slump. That’s just college fandom.

I’m very high on Skylar Thompson. He was a winner in high school and he throws a good ball. I don’t know how quickly he sees the field, but I expect him to start at quarterback at some point. But he’s the highest-rated recruit, so that’s not really a surprise.

I look forward to watching Blake Hickey, a three-star offensive lineman from Texas, compete for playing time with the departure of so many blockers next season. He was one of the few recruits that had offers from other Power 5 schools and stayed committed to K-State. He wants to win for the Wildcats bad.

Another surprise could be two-star receiver DJ Render. I love his highlight tape.

Never heard of that scale before, but I will play along.

How about a 5? K-State will be improved on offense no matter who takes over at quarterback, and talent is coming at receiver. The offensive line will be in rebuilding mode, but that never seems to stop Bill Snyder. The defense should also be better. The biggest obstacle is the schedule. At Stanford is a nightmare game to open with, and conference games at Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor won’t be picnics, either. At Iowa State could also be tough. K-State’s floor should rise, but it’s hard to see it winning more than eight games.

Bringing a Whataburger to Kansas is perhaps the only thing Gov. Brownback could do to raise my approval rating of him above zero. He really should be on this.

Well, you got me to agree to answer three of your blog questions on Tuesday. That would be the highlight of the year for most people. So, no, nothing is better.