Staying Alive

Given a normal year, Big 12 teams need nine regular-season league wins to be considered for the NCAA Tournament, and seven for the NIT. There have been years that eight W's will get a team into "The Dance" and six wins for the NIT, but that's living on the edge. What are K-State's chances?

Kansas State kept its season alive Saturday with a 77-75 overtime victory at the University of Colorado.

Not the prettiest victory ever scored by a Wildcat team, but when 0-4 in Big 12 play, any win will do. What the victory did was keep alive postseason playoff hopes, which realistically, means the NIT.

Trying to be optimistic, however, nine Big 12 wins have gotten teams into the NCAA Tournament 11 out of 13 times since the inception of the conference.

It's not automatic, as Bob Huggins' 10-victory team did not get a bid in 2007, and once an eight-victory team reached NCAA play. But in more years than not, nine wins is normally the magic number.

Breaking the season down into quarters, K-State failed miserably in the opening stanza to the season going 0-4 against Oklahoma, at Kansas, at Nebraska and Baylor.

That, in all honesty, will be tough to over come. To open second quarter play, however, the Wildcats are 1-0 with rugged tests coming this week against 17-3 Missouri at home on Wednesday and then traveling to 14-4 Texas on Saturday. The first half of league play will then conclude with a home date against Iowa State.

To play past the Big 12 Tournament, K-State needs to start winning these quarters, which means going 2-1 in the next three games is a must to finish the second quarter, 3-1.

Taking a realistic look at the four games, it's the easiest four-game set of the four quarters to the 2009 season.

3rd QUARTER: A tough two-week stretch of going to Texas A&M, hosting Texas Tech and Kansas, and traveling to Iowa State ... plus a non-conference game against NC Central of Durham, N.C., stuck in the middle of the action. Again, going 2-2 in these conference games is an absolute minimum, but a 3-1 record would put the ‘Cats at 6-6 setting up a pivotal stretch run to the season.

4th QUARTER: Strong finishes are vital to earning NCAA invitations and the Wildcats have that opportunity going to Mizzou, hosting Nebraska, traveling to O-State, and entertaining Colorado.

Once again, going 2-2 may not cut it. With a strength of schedule that was No. 100 last week, and an RPI ranking that was No. 100 last week, the Wildcats would still likely need two tournament victories to get into NCAA play even if they do finish 9-7.

Troublesome is the fact that K-State finishes Big 12 play with three of its last five games outside of Bramlage Coliseum.

While history tells us nine regular-season Big 12 wins is a minimum to get into "The Dance," on average, three league teams get NIT invitations, and that normally takes seven league wins.

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