K-State improves its NCAA hopes, raises questions about Texas
With one caveat -- and it's a big one -- you can put Kansas State down for a spot in the NCAAs after the Wildcats' gutsy 75-70 win over No. 7 Texas on Monday night in Austin.
The 'Cats have two big marquee wins, including one on the road, in addition to a home win over Missouri and a trio of wins over bubble competitors Virginia Tech, Gonzaga and Baylor.
They were a No. 9 seed in Monday's bracket before stunning Texas, so assuming they handle Iowa State at home in their regular-season finale, the 'Cats should be playing for seeding rather than selection in the Big 12 tournament ... unless Jacob Pullen's hand/wrist injury is serious.
Pullen gutted out the rest of the game after falling on his right wrist late in the second half, but if it's something significant, it would be a huge blow for the Wildcats and would make them an extremely interesting selection debate. K-State is not nearly the same team without him.
For Texas, the home loss, coming on the heels of bad fades at Nebraska and Colorado the past two weekends, really damages the Longhorns' hopes of a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.
Now a game behind Kansas in the loss column, the 'Horns may not even grab a share of the Big 12 crown. With six overall losses, including three fairly marginal ones, their profile might not hold up to comparison against teams like BYU, Duke or even a dark horse like Notre Dame once conference tournaments are done.
Perhaps of greater concern, the No. 1 efficiency defense in the nation has been worked over three times in the last four games. Texas is not an elite offensive team, especially when Jordan Hamilton struggles, so this mini-defensive slide is worth watching. If the 'Horns' regression on that end continues, it could be a major red flag for the NCAAs.
If the NCAA tournament is supposed to be such an exclusive ticket, why does no one want to make it?
As team after team suffered damaging losses last week, the prospective field thinned to the point where there were 18 reasonable candidates for the final 14 spots in the bracket. A look was even needed at a major-conference team with six losses to teams outside the RPI top 100, three of those to 200+ opponents. No, that's not a joke.
So while it's very chic to say Team X is in danger of missing the field, the reality is that practically everyone who's anyone is going to make it. What's more, things don't look like they'll tighten up much at all. There still are very few mid-major champs that look like locks to land an at-large should the auto bid not work out, and most of the top 10 conferences have more or less tapped out on prospective bid candidates.
Those two forces combined with the three newly created spots for the 68-team event mean this has a strong chance of being the softest bubble in recent memory. The silver lining may be that the fluctuating top seeds and lack of distinguishability in the middle of the bracket could make for a really exciting tournament. We can only hope so, because on paper right now, things look very undistinguished.
Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
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Duke's loss at Virginia Tech actually puts UNC in the driver's seat for a possible ACC regular-season crown. Both teams have two league losses and Carolina hosts Duke in Saturday's season finale (although UNC has a tough game at FSU first). The VT loss also
After a super-sized version of the St. Mary's fade that let Gonzaga claim a share of the WCC crown, Texas seems set on allowing Kansas to keep its conference title streak going. I know Colorado is a different animal at home, but that second-half avalanche that landed on the 'Horns creates some questions after a similar crumble at Nebraska the week before. Similar intrigue has developed in the bubble hunt, where all three teams with big home chances took them on Saturday.
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Xavier should win the league and only needs one more win to clinch the conference tourney's No. 1 seed. Richmond continues to win the games it needs to win. Dayton's loss to Xavier pretty much ends its hopes.
BYU went to San Diego and claimed a very impressive win, setting up for
Book 'em. The Patriots are dancing after winning the CAA by two games. They're 8-3 vs. the top 100 and 11-5 away from home with a 15-game winning streak entering the postseason. They very well could be wearing white jerseys on Day 1 of the NCAAs. The Monarchs will join them thanks to a handful of solid nonleague wins and similarly good top-100 and away marks.