At 17-8 and an RPI in the 50s, Kansas State is a basketball team battling for its life to make the NCAA Tournament — and the Wildcats know it.
“I do believe that we are in a tough spot,” junior guard Rodney McGruder said.
But that spot isn’t an insurmountable one. K-State is still projected at the moment to make the Big Dance, though its stock has dropped dramatically over the past few weeks.
With a matchup against No. 9 Baylor tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., the Wildcats have a chance to add a marquee victory to their postseason resume that would likely take them off the tournament bubble. But the Bears are a top-10 team for a reason — at 22-4 and 9-4 in the Big 12, Baylor possesses talent that consistently draws NBA scouts to its games.
And with a road contest against No. 3 Missouri looming for K-State next Tuesday, things don’t get easier. So there are two ways to look at the predicament the Wildcats are in: An optimist would say K-State has two chances to pick up a significant victory over the next few days, while the pessimistic view, or more likely a realistic observation, is the Wildcats don’t have many easy games left. And at this point, the time to add wins is running out.
“There are games left, so we have the opportunity to showcase what we are capable of,” McGruder said.
K-State showed what it was capable of early in the year, going 11-1 in nonconference play. But the Wildcats are 6-7 in the Big 12, which puts them in sixth place alone. Texas has a similar resume to K-State’s, with the exception being the Longhorns don’t have the quality win over a top-10 team, something the Wildcats do have with their 75-59 victory over Missouri in early January.
The question could come down to whether or not K-State is battling with Texas for a fifth Big 12 bid, or if the selection committee will take six league teams. K-State coach Frank Martin said that shouldn’t even come into question.
“I was asked that question when we were in fourth place, and I said that if this league does not get six teams in it is a crying shame,” he said. “I do not waiver on that. I am not saying six (teams) now because we are in sixth place. Two weeks ago when we were in fourth place I said six teams because that was my opinion and that has not changed.”
Part of the reason K-State is being talked about a bubble team has to do with Baylor. The Bears came back and defeated the Wildcats by two in Bramlage Coliseum, and had K-State been able to hang on to win that game, then all of this talk would be a moot point.
The good thing for K-State is it gets another chance to avenge that loss tomorrow. And while it won’t be easy, the Wildcats remain upbeat about Saturday’s game, and the remainder of the season.
“You have to be confident because when you lose confidence, what are you playing for?” McGruder asked. “If you have lost confidence to go to the NCAA Tournament, then why would we be going to Baylor this weekend? You still have to have confidence within yourself because if you do not, the rest of this season does not even matter.”
KANSAS STATE (17-8, 6-7)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Angel Rodriguez Fr. 5-11 7.4 2.3
G — Will Spradling So. 6-2 10.4 2.3
G — Rodney McGruder Jr. 6-4 14.5 5.4
F — Jamar Samuels Sr. 6-7 10.0 6.4
F — Jordan Henriquez Jr. 7-0 5.9 4.5
BAYLOR (22-4, 9-4)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — A.J. Walton Jr. 6-1 3.3 2.4
G — Brady Heslip So. 6-2 9.0 1.3
F — Perry Jones III So. 6-11 14.0 7.6
F — Quincy Miller Fr. 6-9 12.4 5.0
F — Quincy Acy Sr. 6-7 12.1 7.1