Bruce Weber didn’t bite.
Asked Wednesday if he needed a victory in Kansas State’s Big 12 Tournament opener against Baylor to save his job, the Wildcats’ men’s basketball coach put up a stop sign.
“All I’m worried about is Baylor, and getting these guys worried about those guys,” Weber said.
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Weber said he was proud of the way his team responded after what had to be the season’s low point, a 30-point loss at Oklahoma on Feb. 25.
After that defeat, one week remained in the regular season and it appeared Kansas State’s season was over. The effort in Norman was lifeless, and Weber, whose teams have missed postseason play the previous two years after making the NCAA Tournament in his first two, seemed to be on the hot seat.
But Kansas State won its final two regular-season games, at TCU and at home against Texas Tech, to improve to 19-12 overall and 8-10 in conference play. The Wildcats will be the sixth seed on Thursday against the Bears. The game tips around 8 p.m.
There are suggestions that the Wildcats need to beat Baylor to reach the NCAA Tournament. Bracket analysts have Kansas State as a bubble team, one that would be helped by a good performance at Sprint Center.
Guard Wesley Iwundu isn’t one of those analysts, but he feels good about K-State’s position.
“We could always do more, but I think we’re in,” he said. “Everybody’s got their own opinions and we have ours.”
In the last meeting between these teams, Kansas State played a torrid first half at Waco and hung on to a two-point victory. It stands as the Wildcats’ most impressive triumph of the season and is their biggest chip when it comes to NCAA Tournament credentials. But it also was K-State’s only victory during a seven-game stretch.
Before the season ended, the person who hired Weber, athletic director John Currie, departed Kansas State for the same job at Tennessee. Interim athletic director Laird Veatch oversees the KSU athletic department for now and Gen. Richard Myers was named Kansas State’s full-time president in November.
But having new people in those decision-making positions doesn’t impact Weber’s most immediate goal: advancing in the tournament.
“If we would win (Thursday), I’d be so proud of them, and it would be so good for them, and they would deserve it,” Weber said. “But you have to go earn it.”