Kansas State’s postseason resume now includes two references not many teams in the country have: No. 3 Missouri and No. 9 Baylor.
The Wildcats won a key road game at Baylor on Saturday, becoming just the third team to beat the Bears (22-5, 9-5) all season. Because of that, the Wildcats’ NCAA tournament bubble hardly got a chance to take shape. With wins against two teams in the top 10 of the RPI and five in the top 50 overall, it would appear the Wildcats have done enough work to hear their name called on Selection Sunday — as long as they win the games they should down the stretch, admittedly easier said than done.
“We beat a top-10 team in their house — it’s going to look good on the resume,” K-State junior Rodney McGruder said.
K-State, which has had its fair share of close losses this season, was able to hold on for the one-point victory against the Bears, using a strong defensive effort that held Baylor scoreless in the final 2 minutes.
“These are the kind of games you’ve got to get on the road,” K-State junior Jordan Henriquez said. “Those are the ones that count. Coach (Frank Martin) tells us all the time, coming into somebody else’s gym, however you’ve got to get the win you’ve got to get it. The key was we stayed the course.”
The Wildcats, now 18-8 and 7-7 in Big 12 play, have four games remaining in the regular season: At Missouri on Tuesday, then Iowa State at home, at Texas A&M and back home against Oklahoma State to end league play. If K-State, at the very least, takes care of business in its two home contests, which would include another win against a top-50 RPI team in Iowa State, then it would likely have done plenty of work to make the 68-team field.
Martin doesn’t have a magic 8-ball to predict what’s going to happen in these last four games and the Big 12 tournament, nor is he getting wrapped up in all the “bracketology” talk. But the one thing he does know is that he’s proud of the fight his team has continued to show despite some losses that could have sucked the life out of a young squad.
“These guys come in and they don’t let things get them down. Practices are great,” the K-State coach said. “Someone said to me the other day ‘you don’t seem as animated on the sidelines.’ What should I be animated about? These guys are trying their hearts out. Because the ball doesn’t go in the basket sometimes doesn’t make us a bad team.
“These guys are trying to do what we ask them to do. When you’re disciplined and take care of your responsibilties, what is there to stomp around about? These guys don’t come into practice and waste time, regardless of what the score the night before was. They come in and take full advantage of the scouting reports the coaches put together. They compete in practice and make each other better.”
But the Wildcats will admit it’s nice see all that hard work result in a win — and it doesn’t get a lot bigger than the one they got on Saturday.
“It always feels good to win, especially after we lost a couple games and we lost at home too,” Angel Rodriguez said. “Winning this game after all the losses we had feels great.”
KANSAS STATE (18-8, 7-7)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Angel Rodriguez Fr. 5-11 7.7 2.4
G — Will Spradling So. 6-2 10.2 2.3
G — Rodney McGruder Jr. 6-4 14.5 5.3
F — Jamar Samuels Sr. 6-7 10.0 6.3
F — Jordan Henriquez Jr. 7-0 6.0 4.6
No. 3 MISSOURI (25-2, 12-2)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Phil Pressey So. 5-10 10.0 3.4
G — Marcus Denmon Sr. 6-3 17.8 5.2
G — Matt Pressey Sr. 6-2 6.7 3.2
G — Kim English Sr. 6-6 14.2 4.1
F — Ricardo Ratliffe Sr. 6-8 13.7 7.0