It’s time for K-State to step up.
The Wildcats lost to Kentucky and Iowa at the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament and are running out of opportunities to get a marquee non-conference win. Sunday’s game against Oregon is a must win, if K-State wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
The non-conference portion of the schedule is important, because those games become the difference when the NCAA Tournament selection committee chooses between bubble teams.
In the past, K-State has paid for an unimpressive non-conference résumé.
Two years ago, the Wildcats were blown out by New Mexico and California and only had one impressive, non-conference win over Southern California. They missed the NCAA Tournament.
Last season, K-State had another unimpressive non-conference, losing to George Mason, Oregon, Notre Dame and Xavier. That team, which beat Central Florida, Rider and California, barely managed to get a No. 11 seed in the tournament.
If your team hasn’t beaten at least a few quality opponents, Selection Sunday can be a very stressful day. The Wildcats are running out of chances to impress the selection committee.
K-State only has two respectable opponents, Oregon and Southern Mississippi, left on its non-conference schedule. Right now, the only quality win the Wildcats have is a road win against Cleveland State.
That won’t be enough to impress the selection committee.
A big part of the Wildcats’ problem is a soft non-conference schedule. K-State only scheduled three teams from major conferences.
The Wildcats have basically dug themselves a hole. If they can’t win every one of their remaining non-conference games, making the NCAA Tournament will be a long shot.
The Wildcats had two golden opportunities while in Vegas. They lost to Kentucky, 74-72, Friday before losing to Iowa, 65-63, Saturday.
Winning either of those games, especially the one against a very talented Kentucky squad, would have helped validate K-State as a tournament worthy team.
A victory over Oregon will be tough. The Ducks are 3-3 and desperate for a victory.
Unlike K-State, the Ducks have played a very tough non-conference schedule. They’ve lost to No. 1 North Carolina, 98-69, and No. 6 Texas, 70-57.
The fact that the game is at Oregon doesn’t help matters for K-State either. The Ducks only lost three home games, all against Pac-10 opponents, last season.
If the Wildcats can beat Oregon on the road and then Southern Mississippi at the Sprint Center at Kansas City, they’ll have a good shot at making the NCAA Tournament. If they can’t, they’ll be lucky to make the NIT.
Jon Garten is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to email@example.com.