KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas State likely earned its way into the NCAA tournament with Thursday night’s upset of Baylor. A follow-up win over West Virginia on Friday would have clinched it.
Instead, the Wildcats lost a 12-point second-half lead and fell 51-50.
With a 20-13 record and a mid-50s RPI, Kansas State will be anxiously awaiting Sunday’s bracket unveiling.
“You play 20 games in this league and we got nine wins against the best or second-best conference, depending on what you look at,” said coach Bruce Weber.
Like all the bubble teams, you can rave or groan about the Wildcats. They are just 6-11 against the RPI top 100 but they also own several signature wins, as Weber was happy to articulate.
“We’ve beaten Baylor twice. They’ve beaten Oregon, Louisville, Michigan State and Xavier, and we beat them twice. We beat West Virginia. West Virginia went to Virginia and won. They’ve been one of the better teams in the country,” he said.
“I know close doesn’t count in basketball, but we played Kansas … and we had a shot to beat ’em at their place. It was a tie score minute left at our place. We had some other close games. I think we’re a good team. I think you watch us, you see it, if the eye test means anything.”
Cyclones heat up
Lights-out shooting propelled No. 23 Iowa State to an 84-63 romp over TCU in Friday’s first Big 12 semifinal.
Deonte Burton scored 22 points, Monte Morris added 12 and the Cyclones shot 56 percent overall and 12-of-25 from 3-point range.
Iowa State (22-10) effectively ended it with a 12-2 run to close the half leading 44-27. The spread grew to 26 with about 12 minutes, making for a comfortable finish, though Steve Prohm still had three starters play 30-plus minutes.
Morris, who had played 29 and exited for good with 8:58 remaining
Most surprisingly, the Cyclones outrebounded TCU 32-31.
I shared an elevator ride with Iowa State fans who made the impromptu drive from Des Moines today to catch the Cyclones in the semifinals. They said I-35 was teeming with ISU decals. Not surprising, considering the secondary ticket market became wide-open with the Kansas contingent leaving.
After winning this event in 2014 and 2015, Iowa State figures to be favored against WVU on Saturday.
“Honestly, we got the best fans in the country and they travel well,” Morris said. “So it definitely felt like a home game for us and that definitely gets us going. Now we are forty minutes way from a trophy.”
While the Frogs (19-15) fell flat a day after ousting Kansas, their two wins here locked up an NIT bid and reinforced the strides made in Jamie Dixon’s first season.
As I wrote when Chris Del Conte hired Dixon last March, this remains the worst job in the Big 12 with the worst arena in the Big 12. Yet TCU was on the bubble until the crashing waves of a seven-game slide to end the regular season. Three of those losses came at home vs. Oklahoma State, K-State and West Virginia by a combined five points).
As Dixon’s personality becomes more ingrained, the Frogs might grow into a program that wins those types of games. Their final-minute poise against Kansas on Thursday was a step.