After starting 7-1 in the Big 12 with huge wins over then-#9 Texas A&M and then-#2 Kansas, the Wildcats dropped four in a row and five of six in a stretch that dropped them from #1 in the conference to #3 and only one game ahead of #4's Oklahoma and Baylor, not to mention completely out of the Top-25. What was shaping up to be the year when Kansas State returned triumphantly to the Big Dance has now turned into a replay of last year's speculation on whether or not a 10-6 Big 12 team deserves to go.
Granted, this year's 10-6 team is third in a conference that will send at least four teams, and they do have the #1 player in the country, but ask any Wildcat fan about whether or not they thought their team was going dancing last year, and you'll get the same uneasy feelings about this squad.
Winning the last two games of their conference schedule - albeit ugly wins over the two worst teams in the Big 12 - went a long way in helping the Wildcats' résumé. Holding on to third place in one of the best basketball conferences in the nation is no small feat, and although a 10-6 finish may be below the lofty expectations some had for one of the most talented teams in K-State history, it will most likely be enough to get this team into the postseason.
However, there is one more piece of business facing Frank Martin and his Wildcats: the Big 12 Tournament. By securing a first-round bye, the Wildcats will face the winner of Iowa State/Texas A&M. Having already beaten Iowa State twice and A&M once, the Wildcats should face, most likely, Kansas in the third round. If KSU's road performances thus far are any indication of their tournament play, however, the third round of the Big 12 Tournament might be just a dream.
At 3-5 in conference games on the road, it is painfully obvious to Frank Martin and his star-studded squad that having the #1 player in the nation doesn't mean you can't play as a team. Failure to do just that has plagued the Wildcats when away from the friendly home environment that is Bramlage Coliseum. So, assuming the 'Cats get a bid to play in the NCAA Tournament, regardless of how they perform in the Big 12 Tournaent, how will they fare?
Personally, I think the Wildcats will enter the dance as an 8 seed, which means if they win their first game they will probably meet the 1 seed in the second round (most likely Memphis). Barring any melt-down disasters, I agree with Joe Lunardi who has a Wildcat showdown between Kansas State and Kentucky. K-State fans and players alike should be
praying that they don't have to face Kentucky, arguably one of the hottest teams in the country, which has won 6 of the last 7.
In order to allow me to make a prediction, lets assume that the Wildcats get the 8 seed. Regardless of who they play, Kentucky or not, I think Frank Martin will have his team ready to play. Michael Beasley, Bill Walker, and the rest of the team are anxious to prove they deserve all the hype they've been receiving, and I have a hard time seeing them lose their first round game.
The second round is a different story. Facing the #1 team in their division will be no small task. If it is the Tigers, be ready for one heck of a game. Both teams are looking to prove themselves in the postseason, and both have players trying to make an impression on NBA teams, not to mention trying to win a championship. The question is, can K-State's raw talent be pulled together to beat a team like Memphis that can run and gun? Is Michael Beasley dominant enough to slow down Joey Dorsey and his team? I think so, and pick the Wildcats to win their second round game as well, Memphis or not.
Beyond this point, it's too difficult to predict who the 'Cats might face, but if they do manage to make it to the third round, don't be suprised if they get to the Elite 8. My heart says that this team should make a run and is capable of playing with any team in the country. My head, on the other hand, tells my heart it's stupid. Realistically speaking, and on my bracket that I actually turn in, I'm picking Michael Beasley to end his college career by losing in the second round to the 1 seed. Personally, I'm not convinced that Beasley is NBA bound just yet, but once again, my head thinks I'm stupid.
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