The Week 18 USA Today Coaches Poll came out today, and K-State is ranked #10 in the country. Even better, the AP has the Wildcats at #9. That would put Kansas State in line for a three seed in the NCAA tournament. With games against TCU and at Oklahoma State to finish up the season, plus the conference tournament, this is no time to let up on the gas pedal. However, it appears as though things are starting to come together for a K-State squad sitting at 24-5 overall with a 13-3 conference record and poised to take home a share of the regular season title.
If it’s not clear by now, this is where the voters want Kansas State. Period. Any other team would likely garner more volatile swings with the way this team has played. In week 14, the Wildcats were #13. Then they climbed to number ten. A 20 point loss to KU should have dropped them, but Bruce Weber’s team only dropped to #13. And the next week, it was #13 again. Now we’re back to #10. It’s hard to imagine a team ever holding that steady in the middle of the polls. Also, remember that in week seven this team wasn’t even receiving votes – that’s a pretty incredible climb.
This team has won nine of ten. That includes five straight. The schedule hasn’t been a gauntlet of giants – the only game against a ranked team was a loss to KU. But the Big 12 is still the Big 12. Oklahoma and Iowa State, both with 19 wins, were two of those victims. Plus two victories against 17-12 Baylor.
It’s important to note that there are no ‘bad losses’ with this team. Gonzaga? The AP’s number one team in the nation this week. Michigan? Fresh off a victory over Michigan State and sitting at #3. Kansas? Number five. And yes, the loss in Lawrence was embarrassing, but the RPI only recognizes losses, not margins. The fourth team K-State lost to – Iowa State in Ames – isn’t something to be proud of. But that Cyclone team took KU to overtime in both games, and should have won the second one. That’s four losses against top five teams, plus Iowa State.
Kansas State doesn’t fare quite as well in the RPI, sitting at #18 with the 64th ranked strength of schedule. However, the RPI has New Mexico as the nation’s number two team and the Mountain West as the #1 conference. These rankings are a guide – not a rule for the selection committee. They’re also probably inaccurate. Joe Lunardi had K-State as a three seed before Saturday’s win at Baylor, and that victory should keep the ‘Cats even at the three seed. Short of a dramatic upset in the Big 12 tournament or vicious run to the tournament title with wins over KU and Oklahoma State, three is looking like where this team will land.
As stated, KU is sitting at number five in the most recent polls, while Oklahoma State checks in at K-State’s old spot, #13. No other Big 12 teams received any votes.