"Getting a bye is huge," said Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin. "It eliminates one day that you have to play a hard basketball game. It gives you a chance to make a run in the Big 12 Tournament and it solidifies you as one of the elite teams in the conference."
With a 10-6 Big 12 record, Kansas State did secure that first-round bye as the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Championships set for Kansas City's Sprint Center starting on Thursday. The Wildcats first game will be on Friday at 8:20, against the winner of Thursday's game between Texas A&M and Iowa State. K-State has already defeated the Aggies once, and the Cyclones twice.
That extra day off has been crucial for teams with championship aspirations, as no team has won four straight games in the Big 12 Tournament. Three-seeds have advanced to the title game seven times, winning four, while no team seeded fourth has won a Big 12 championship.
"If you've got to play four games in four nights - and I think we're a good enough basketball team that we can make a run in the Big 12 Tournament - then it kind of kills your team as far as preparing for the NCAA Tournament," Martin said. "Then you've got to turn around and travel on Monday. If you've got to play four consecutive days, then get on a plane to go play one of the top 64 teams in the country, it beats you up."
Heading into the week, Kansas State was ranked anywhere from a No. 7 to No. 9 seed by most bracketologists. By most, that was just behind Oklahoma as a No. 8 seed, and Baylor as a No. 10 seed. Ironically, K-State defeated Oklahoma, but lost to Baylor.
Should Kansas State score a victory on Friday, it's a good bet that the Wildcats would get another shot at the University of Kansas on Saturday afternoon at 3:20 in one of two semi-final games.
Last year, K-State defeated Texas Tech in a quarter-final game, but then lost to Kansas, 67-61.
The championship game will be played on Sunday at 2 p.m., with the announcement of the Field of 65 following at 5 p.m.
Kansas State's last NCAA appearance was in 1995-96. As a No. 10 seed, the Wildcats lost a first-round game in the East Regional to New Mexico.