Secure with a four seed in the West Regional of the NCAA tournament, the Kansas State Wildcats must now patiently await the outcome of a play-in game between Boise State and La Salle to determine which team the Wildcats will meet in the first(/second) round on Friday. Teams always match up against certain opponents better than others (i.e., K-State does not match up well with KU). So in the interest of securing the best match up this week, who should Wildcat fans be rooting for on Wednesday?
La Salle and Boise State posed essentially identical records at 21-9 and 21-10, respectively. However, La Salle finished 11-5 in the Atlantic 10 while Boise State went 9-7 in the Mountain West. Since the selection committee determines these are teams of almost equal ability, one would expect the Atlantic 10 to be weaker than the Mountain West. The RPI rankings would certainly indicate this; the MWC was the RPI’s #1 conference, led by #2 New Mexico. The MWC also sported #22 UNLV, #23 Colorado State, and #29 San Diego State. A tough slate to finish 9-7 against, to be sure.
The A-10, on the other hand, was all the way down at #7 in the RPI. Their best team is #16 St. Louis, with #20 Butler and #24 VCU also at the top of the league. However, it’s questionable how much the RPI should determine in terms of conference rankings – does anyone really believe the MWC, with New Mexico and Colorado State, should be #1 over the Big 10, with Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan State? That’s a tough argument to make in the Midwest. With this in mind, La Salle’s RPI rank of #40 and BSU’s #44 don’t mean a whole lot (and the numbers are pretty close anyway).
Outside of conference play, BSU soundly defeated Creighton, lost a tight game to Michigan State, and did not play any other teams of note on the season. La Salle lost badly to Miami, defeated Villanova before Villanova knew how to win, and dropped to Bucknell outside of A-10 play. BSU’s resume is definitely more impressive here, as La Salle failed to do much against teams not in its conference.