Big 12 Tournament success holds the key to a NIT berth for K-State

Freshman guard Barry Brown navigates around a Texas Tech defender on Jan. 12, 2016 inside Bramlage Coliseum. Brown scored a total of 15 points in the game. (File Photo by Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

Freshman guard Barry Brown made just one basket, a 3-pointer and a free throw during the first game of K-State’s two-game stint in the CBE Classic inside the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

The next night, in the final game versus then-No. 8 North Carolina, Brown still couldn’t find his rhythm, missing everything and ending up with zero points on the night.

On Wednesday, Brown and his team return to the Sprint Center. The stakes are raised as the Wildcats are fighting for a chance at playing in the postseason as they take on Oklahoma State in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament. K-State is 16-15 overall and 5-13 in the Big 12 while Oklahoma State is 12-19 overall and 3-15 in conference play.

Now Brown, freshly adorned with a spot on the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team along with freshman forward Dean Wade, will look to help his team win its first Big 12 Tournament game since the 2012-13 season.

“Last time I was in there, I didn’t do so well against North Carolina,” Brown said of returning to the Sprint Center. “As a team, we played pretty good, but as an individual I feel like I owe it to my team to do better.”

The Wildcats split the series with Oklahoma State, with each team winning its respective home games.

In the most recent matchup, the Wildcats fell 58-55 in overtime in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in what was just an ugly game. The Wildcats shot only 36 percent, their second worst night of the season, and turned the ball over 19 times.

“An old coach always told me that you have two (games) that you play off the charts,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “One of the two you play below what you should play, and that was one of the games. Not to take anything away from them. They’ve continued to battle.”

It is a game that junior forward Wesley Iwundu, who was named to the All-Big 12 Third Team and Big 12 All-Defensive Team last Sunday, said he thinks his team can take advantage of.

“We’re very motivated to go in there and do some things,” Iwundu said. “I’m confident right now that we can go in there and do something. We just have to take it game by game. It’s not going to be easy. We’re looking forward to it. It’s a great venue.”

A win would really help the Wildcats’ case for the NIT bid, which is something Weber said he thinks his team has already earned.

“I think we deserve to be in the NIT,” Weber said. “When we play Oklahoma State, we will have played our 17th top-25 RPI teams. No one else is going to be able to do that in the country. Now, we haven’t won very many of them, but nobody else has even played them, and our record outside of that is very, very good.”

A NIT berth would be huge for K-State, Weber said. The youth and inexperience on the Wildcats’ roster would benefit from the extra games and practices afforded by postseason play.

“Just to play more games,” Weber said. “To have that game experience, I think it would be great to keep it going. We do have the Europe trip (over the summer) that’s a good advantage … and I’d like the seniors to have a chance to play in the tournament. Justin’s not played in any kind of tournament. Stephen hasn’t played in any kind of tournament.”

K-State and Oklahoma State face off at 6 p.m today inside the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.