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?

Well, look where those Kansas State Wildcats are a halftime of the Big 12 Conference basketball year.

Starting with an 0-4 league record, who would have thought two weeks later the Wildcats would be 4-4, which includes a pair of overtime road victories at Colorado and Texas.

"It's a case of a young team staying together and learning, rather than quitting on each other," said KSU coach Frank Martin. "This is a team that continues to draw closer, and now is a group playing with enthusiasm."

Still, when thinking of getting in the NCAA Tournament, K-State has a bundle of work to do. Entering the Iowa State game, K-State's RPI ranking was No. No. 78, plus had a strength of schedule of only No. 83. Both of those numbers will be automatic "No's" when it comes to a postseason selection committee.

That means this K-State team might have to get to 10 regular season Big 12 wins, plus another one, if not two, in the league's postseason tournament in Oklahoma City.

Remember, Bob Huggins' 10-win team did not get an NCAA bid in 2007, so even 10 wins is not automatic.

To all of this, Martin said, "If you win games in the Big 12, you're going to be in; if you don't win games in the Big 12, you're not going to be in.

"All these experts have all the answers, but the bottom line is you have to win the games on the schedule," Martin said. "If you do that in the Big 12, everything else takes care of itself."

The third quarter to KSU's Big 12 year begins Saturday at Texas A&M, and will be followed by home dates against Texas Tech and Kansas, plus a road trip to Iowa State.

The game with the Red Raiders appears to be a W, but the other three will be toughies. A 3-1 mark would put the Wildcats at 7-5 heading to the home stretch two weeks to the season with still plenty to play for.

That final two weeks will have K-State going to Missouri, hosting Nebraska, traveling to Oklahoma State, and entertaining Colorado. Another 3-1 record would be most possible, which would give K-State a 10-6 record, and with that, a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.

In looking back, and forward, sophomore guard Jacob Pullen said of the Wildcats, "After we won that first game, we believed we could win all the other games. We beat Colorado, and we knew we could beat Missouri. After we beat Missouri by a lot, we knew we could beat Texas.

"It's a confidence thing and a mind thing," Pullen said. "I think we can surprise some people by finishing in the top three or four (Big 12) and sneaking into the NCAA Tournament."

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