NIT In K-State's Future

Win and You are In, the Wildcats controlled their own destiny prior to Wednesday. But due to a sub-par RPI ranking and a week strength of schedule, Kansas State's chances for the NCAA Tournament slipped from doubtful to almost nil with Wednesday's 94-74 loss at Missouri.

Kansas State appears to be headed for what coach Frank Martin calls the "three-letter" tournament.

With Wednesday's 20-point loss to Missouri, the Wildcats all but played themselves out of the NCAA, unless they can sweep through the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City in two weeks.

"It was a must win, and we didn't win," Jacob Pullen said. "I haven't even watched the NIT before. The only thing I know is the NCAA Tournament. We wanted to get back there, and this is the game we need. It's a game that was in our hands, but slipped out."

And went splat on the Mizzou Arena floor. Martin was irritated with such tournament talk, going as far to say, "I don't care about the NCAA Tournament. My focus is on the next three games, and that starts with Nebraska. That's the most important game on our schedule."

After the loss to the Tigers, Martin semi-snapped, "If we win today, tomorrow morning they're going to say 'K-State's in.' And then we lose a game next week and K-State's out. So who cares whether today was a big game, or not.

"At this time of the year, every game is important. There's not one game that has more meaning than the next," Martin said. "So if we win, and they say K-State's in, I guess we don't have to play any more games. They say we're in, so our season is done."

The game against Mizzou, however, did carry more meaning. It was against a Top 25 team ... one of those "good wins" that K-State so dearly needed.

Depending on the day, K-State's RPI is in the mid-70s and its strength of schedule in the No. 115 area.

Of its 18 Division I wins, only four – Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M and Cleveland State – are against teams ranked better than No. 100 in the RPI rankings.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi says that on the K-State "team sheet" that goes to each committee member, those wins over teams with high-high RPI rankings will be highlighted in yellow.

"That really makes your strength of schedule stand out," Lunardi says. "With a team like K-State, you have to look for their good wins and see if they out-weight the clunkers. The committee will try to determine how good they are when they're good, and how bad they are when they're bad. They're going to be asking, 'Can we trust them to be competitive?' I really don't think they're over the hump yet."

And those words were spoken before Wednesday's loss.

Lunardi has only four Big 12 teams in the tournament: No. 1 Seed Oklahoma, No. 4 Seeds Kansas and Missouri, and No. 6 Seed Texas. Jerry Palm of has five Big 12 teams in: No. 1 seed Oklahoma, No. 3 seed Missouri, No. 4 seed Kansas, No. 9 seed Texas and No. 10 seed A&M. (All prior to Monday's Kansas win over Oklahoma.)

Of OSU, A&M and KSU, Palm said, "All of these teams have problems to the degree none of them may get in. For sure, all of them have to do more. For those teams, if they don't win the tournament, they've thrown themselves on the mercy of the court."

K-State's remaining games are against Nebraska on Saturday at 7, Tuesday at Oklahoma State, and at home against Colorado next Saturday.

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