The NCAA Tournament might not start until next month, but tonight’s matchup between K-State and Oklahoma State could be an early elimination game.
The Wildcats (20-9, 9-5 Big 12 Conference) and Cowboys (19-9, 5-8), two teams seemingly going in opposite directions, both are on the tournament bubble and need a few more wins to pad their records.
K-State enters the game having won seven of its last 10 games, while Oklahoma State has lost seven of 10, including four straight.
Once an apparent tournament fixture, the Cowboys have stumbled since Big 12 play began Jan. 6. They have lost all six of their road games after playing no true road games in their non-conference schedule.
Luckily, they’ll play K-State at Gallagher-Iba Arena, a venue that’s treated them well so far this season (the Cowboys are 14-2 at home).
But even that comes with a dose of negativity. Oklahoma State has lost back-to-back home games – first a 75-64 loss to Missouri, then a 66-46 loss to Texas A&M on Feb. 21 – and will look to put an end to the streak.
In order to do that, it will rely heavily on senior Mario Boggan (20.2 ppg) and junior JamesOn Curry (17.3 ppg), both of whom rank in the top 10 in the conference in scoring.
K-State has not beaten the Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba since a 75-62 win on Jan. 9, 1993. However, the Wildcats have been a solid road team, winning eight games away from Bramlage Coliseum this season.
A win over the Cowboys would give K-State plenty of reason for optimism in terms of making the NCAA Tournament. According to noted statistician Ken Pomeroy, no team with 20 wins overall and 10 conference wins from the six major conferences has been denied a tournament spot since 1999.
The Wildcats also could secure fourth place in the Big 12 with a win, which would be the highest finish in school history. K-State has not finished better than seventh in the Big 12 since its inception in 1996.
Senior Cartier Martin leads the team in scoring with 16.2 points per game, and the Wildcats will look to build off their strong offensive performance against Colorado Saturday. K-State scored 87 points in their win against the Buffaloes, its highest total since scoring 93 points against Cleveland State Dec. 5. Oklahoma State averages 76 points per game.
The game will mark the first time K-State coach Bob Huggins and first-year Cowboys coach Sean Sutton have met. Sutton was previously an assistant coach under his father, Eddie Sutton, for 13 years since 1993.