K-State helps its NCAA chances with much-needed upset of Kansas

Tuesday February 15th, 2011

Well, then. The last thing I expected to do after Kansas State's crushing buzzer-nonbeater Saturday night at Colorado was to have to re-evaluate its NCAA tournament at-large hopes two nights later.

But K-State's resounding 84-68 win over No. 1 Kansas on Monday night in Manhattan changes things, at least a bit.

This was a tremendous, dominant and perhaps season-saving victory for the Wildcats, but don't overreact to it in terms of guaranteeing an NCAA tournament berth. Even with this sizable pelt on the good side of its tourney profile, K-State is still just 1-6 vs. the RPI top 50, is still under .500 in the Big 12 and still in seventh place in a conference that likely won't get more than six NCAA bids.

That said, the Wildcats should be able to handle Oklahoma and Iowa State at home down the stretch, which means they need to go 2-1 at Nebraska, at home against Missouri and at Texas to finish 9-7 and have a legitimately credible at-large profile. This win doesn't nearly get them in, but it gets them a lot closer.

Perhaps the more interesting impact is what the loss does to Kansas' profile. The Jayhawks already were the fourth No. 1 seed in Monday's updated bracket and Duke (and others) was aggressively in pursuit. Kansas still has better quality top wins than the Blue Devils, but this loss somewhat offsets that the Jayhawks' other defeat came against 1-seed Texas and is similar in quality to Duke's loss at Florida State.

The pressure now may be increasing on Kansas to win the Big 12 tournament in order to land a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. The Jayhawks are now two games behind Texas in the loss column and lost the head-to-head matchup, so a second-place regular-season finish looks fairly likely. If Duke keeps winning, or the San Diego State/BYU rematch winner runs the table, or Georgetown or Notre Dame remain searing hot, KU could go from No. 1 in the land to a No. 2 seed a month from now.

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