In the American media’s custom of predicting competitors and outcomes way too early (cable news can already tell you who the 2016 presidential candidates will be), ESPN released Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology predictions yesterday. The Wildcats are predicted to receive a ninth seed, and were one of only four Big 12 teams to find themselves in the rankings. Both results are surprising.
K-State is predicted to play Pitt in a match up of two teams currently trending downward. In the November 6 rankings, the Wildcats were slated to earn a seven seed. Since then, they have done nothing to inspire confidence. Although the Wildcats sit at 7-1, they have failed to beat a team worth sneezing at. In fact, the Wildcats are ranked 121 in the RPI with a strength of schedule of 294. That’s 293 teams in the nation that have played a harder slate of games. Even worse, the team has struggled to defeat inferior competition, as evidenced by a 66-63 win over Delaware and last Saturday’s 65-62 squeaker over a 4-5 George Washington squad.
The Wildcats have a great opportunity to boost their RPI in the coming weeks, with games against #14 Gonzaga and #5 Florida over the next ten days. Then, on January 5, they kick off league play at home against #24 Oklahoma State. K-State has traditionally played to its opponent’s level, pushing elite teams but failing to put away bad ones. They’ve also been known to exhibit a Jekyll/Hyde approach to out of conference and conference play. However, the only game against a March Madness team thus far was against Michigan, and the Wildcats were never competitive in the second half of that game. They still have a ways to go before justifying a place in the field of 64 (or 70 or however many teams they invite nowadays).
As far as the other Big 12 teams go, KU is projected as a #2 seed, Oklahoma State #6 seed, and Baylor a #8 seed. KU and Oklahoma State are currently the only two teams ranked in the conference (#9 and #24, respectively) in what could be one of the biggest down years we’ve ever seen in the conference.