Kansas State, finishing their Big 12 slate of games with a 14-4 record, will be the number two seed in the Big 12 conference tournament. The tournament, hosted in Kansas City’s Sprint Center, kicks off Wednesday when West Virginia and Texas Tech face off. Texas and TCU will play the late night Wednesday game. WVU and Tech, with the number eight and nine seeds, will battle for the opportunity to take on KU in the second round, while K-State will face the winner of #7 Texas and #10 TCU.
Also on K-State’s side of the bracket are #3 Oklahoma State and #6 Baylor. Should the Wildcats defeat their first two opponents, they would advance to the Championship where they would likely play KU, although Iowa State and Oklahoma are both upset contenders.
The Wildcats would probably prefer to play TCU in their first game, as the Horned Frogs only won two conference games this year and finished the regular season 11-20. However, Texas Christian remains an odd entity with its victory over Kansas earlier this year, demonstrating potential to knock off anyone. Additionally, although K-State won both games by double digit margins, it had a difficult ever putting TCU away. Texas, on the other hand, went 7-11 in league play and finished 15-16. Although Texas appears to be a better team on paper, the Wildcats had a much easier time handling the Longhorns. Their first meeting was a 25-point victory,83-57, that was essentially over at halftime. They also won in Austin, 81-69. Both potential match ups should fall in K-State’s favor.
The next round of play could be more interesting. K-State finished the season 1-1 against Oklahoma State, with each team winning at home (73-67 in Manhattan, and 76-70 in Stillwater yesterday). The two teams match up well, and predicting the outcome of the game could be a crapshoot with each squad winning by six at home. However, a couple of factors should be considered surrounding their second meeting: Will Spradling is still injured, and should be healthier in five days, and K-State was definitely the recipient of a bogus foul call that halted a 6-0 run and allowed Oklahoma State the opportunity to get back in a game it was quickly falling behind in. And playing in Kansas City on a Friday night, the Wildcats are guaranteed to turn out more fans than Oklahoma State.
K-State went 2-0 against Baylor, with a monster 81-61 win in Manhattan and 64-61 squeaker in Waco punctuated by this last second shot by Rodney McGruder. Spradling completely missed the game in Waco, which suggests the Wildcats would have had an easier downing the Bears with him in the line up. However, Baylor is an extremely talented team – it defeated KU 81-58 on Saturday in a game the Jayhawks were never competitive in. This was an Elite Eight squad last year, and many predicted they wouldn’t miss a beat this year. When Pierre Jackson is on, this team has the talent to run with anyone, from Kansas to Indiana to Michigan.
In the end, who you want to face is a risk/reward proposition. It’s a function of your odds of winning combined with how much the win boosts your resume, in addition to what you have to gain/lose. K-State is looking like a likely #3 seed in the NCAA tournament. A two seed was possible, but the Wildcats needed to beat Oklahoma State yesterday and run through the Big 12 tournament. Since that can no longer happen, this team is playing to avoid falling, not rise. As such, Baylor is probably the preferable opponent. There may be a lot of talent on this squad, but their record (9-9, 18-13) is still a mediocre record. Oklahoma State (13-5, 23-7), on the other hand, is still the #13 team in the nation and has proven it can beat the Wildcats. National freshman of the year candidate Marcus Smart has only gotten throughout the season, and Le’Bryan Nash has frustrated K-State’s interior defense twice this season. Root for a rematch with Baylor in this one.
No matter what, The Jug is rooting for an opportunity against Kansas in the championship game. Sure, the path of least resistance makes the journey easier, but winning the tournament by defeating Oklahoma just wouldn’t feel the same. A loss to KU won’t help achieve the team’s goals, but as fans, we need that game. The final will be at 5 p.m. on Saturday, and hosted on ESPN. The Big 12 recently moved its championship game from Sunday to Saturday, believing the selection committee (which meets Sunday afternoon) failed to take into consideration winning the Big 12 tournament when awarding seeds.
Here’s ESPN’s schedule of events: