Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Why are Bruce Weber's Wildcats still a bubble team?

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

Thanks, as always, for your questions. We’ve got a lot of good ones on tap this week, so let’s get right to them.

I must admit I am a little perplexed that Kansas State remains so close to the NCAA Tournament cut line in the eyes of bracket experts. The Wildcats are tied with West Virginia for third place in the Big 12 at 9-6, they have won eight of their last 11 games and their lone bad loss (Tulsa in Wichita) doesn’t really seem all that bad. They were on the bubble going into last week’s game against Oklahoma State and remain there despite winning three in a row.

Joe Lunardi has them as a No. 10 seed. Jerry Palm projects them as a No. 9 seed.

I guess Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Texas don’t move the needle.

A few weeks ago, someone asked what Big 12 record K-State would need to lock up an at-large bid. My response: 9-9. Now, I’m thinking it will take 11-7 or 10-8 with a win in the Big 12 Tournament to achieve lock (no way they get left out) status.

Like Bruce Weber said the other night, “We cannot be satisfied.”

One thing to remember: bracket experts like Lunardi and Palm aren’t actually on the committee. They were just as surprised as the rest of us by the top 16 reveal earlier this month. They are guessing same as the rest of us. With the new quadrant system, there might be more misses than usual on those mock brackets.

From what I can tell, the committee is valuing good wins (especially good road wins) over everything else. That’s something the Wildcats don’t have many of. They haven’t beaten a single team currently ranked in the top 25 or that has achieved lock status for the Big Dance. Perhaps that is why they are the David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey’s character in “Dazed and Confused) of this year’s NCAA Tournament candidates. They keep winning, but the bubble stays the same.

K-State’s best RPI wins have come against TCU (21) at home and Oklahoma (32) at home. Going 0-6 against Kansas (7), Texas Tech (17) and West Virginia (27) is probably holding the Wildcats back, at least in the eyes of some. Beating the Horned Frogs and the Sooners on the road in their next two games would be big. Knocking off KU, Tech or WVU in Kansas City would be even bigger.

There is also a pillow-soft nonconference schedule to consider. K-State’s early slate ranks 336th nationally. Compare that to TCU (49th) or Oklahoma (110th) or Texas (76th) and it’s easy to see why there isn’t separation. The selection committee isn’t supposed to look at a team’s conference record. So, while I agree the top four teams in the Big 12 standings should qualify for the NCAA Tournament no questions asked, that’s not how the committee thinks.

K-State will get the opportunity to move off the bubble in its final three games. Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor are all solid opponents. Win two and the Wildcats move into lock territory.

He’s already in the conversation. If K-State wins out and finishes even or ahead of Texas Tech you could make a case for Bruce Weber as Big 12 Coach of the Year.

It would be an interesting debate. Texas Tech was picked seventh and appeared on its way to winning the league before Keenan Evans got hurt. K-State was picked to finish eighth and currently sits in third. You could also go with Bill Self if Kansas finishes first again.

Do you give the award to the coach who wins the league? Or do you go with the biggest over-achiever?

Right now, it’s a three-man race between Chris Beard, Bill Self and Bruce Weber. A lot will depend on what happens over the next three games.

Anything is possible ... But that would surprise me.

Bruce Weber likes Manhattan and he has said several times his dream is to coach here until he retires. One way or another, I think this will be his last coaching stop. He also should have a good team coming back and his buyout is $2.5 million. If he does look to coach elsewhere, it will probably be after that number drops to $500,000 on April 30, 2019.

Definitely. I’m not sure it’s all that close.

Last year’s team had more high-shelf wins (Baylor twice, West Virginia) and smoked Wake Forest in the First Four. It also had the best overall player (Wesley Iwundu), but this team is so much more consistent. Barry Brown and Dean Wade should both land on the all-Big 12 teams. Cartier Diarra, Xavier Sneed and Kamau Stokes are all good. If everyone comes back this group could challenge for another conference title next season.

If Kansas State ends up in Wichita it will most likely be as a random gift from the selection committee.

Only the top four seeds in each region are supposed to get preferential treatment when it comes to sub-regional sites, and it’s unlikely the Wildcats will earn one of those. Maybe that could come into play if they win their final three games and follow that up with a Big 12 Tournament championship, but even then that’s a big climb up from their current projection.

I remember asking Bruce Weber before the Tulsa game if he would use returning to Intrust Bank Arena for the NCAA Tournament as motivation and it was hard for him to take the question seriously, saying the Wildcats would have to win “a whole lot of games” for that to become a possible reward.

Still, random gifts have happened plenty of times before. There’s no rule that says a 7 seed can’t play close to home. Kansas State went to St. Louis as a 9 seed with favored teams Kansas and Wichita State in 2014. West Virginia usually ends up in Pittsburgh when the NCAA Tournament goes there, regardless of seed. I once covered a NCAA Tournament game in Boise in 2009 when Marquette flew across the country as a No. 6 seed to play Utah State in its own backyard in the first round.

It happens. The Wildcats can keep their fingers crossed and hope for Wichita.

If ... remember, I said if ... K-State finishes on a nine-game winning streak and hoists a trophy in Kansas City I could see a 5 seed. As mentioned above, maybe even a 4. Depends on who it faces along the way.

More realistically, the Wildcats could push for a 6 seed with a 2-1 finish and then a pair of wins in KC. That would give them 25 wins, and that’s probably enough for a 6 seed.

K-State needs to make roster room for 2018 commit Shaun Williams, so someone is definitely going to have to transfer or turn pro.

My guess (and that’s all it is) is that we see more roster turnover than that.

As you pointed out, Mawdo Sallah hasn’t played in seven games. As a grad transfer, he remains eligible to play immediately elsewhere next season. Unless he can suddenly crack the rotation, it’s hard to envision him sticking around for another year on the bench. Brian Patrick hasn’t played in three of the past four games. I think he has potential, but if he’s not playing he could also look elsewhere.

Transfers are so common in college basketball, almost everyone is a candidate.

Kamau Stokes tested the NBA waters last spring. Will he do so again? Will Barry Brown or Dean Wade join him?

Those are all decisions that will be made after the season.

I want a new media room/interview center at Bramlage Coliseum. The current setup (in a storage closet at the top of the arena ramp) is sub-optimal. That’s what I would green light!

If you’re looking for something that benefits fans, I would invest in a new video board on the South side of the football stadium. The current one is starting to feel small.

Not quite banner worthy, but a solid achievement. All six wins were big.

Beat Baylor on senior day and the Wildcats will sweep the Bears in both sports, too.

Disappointing: Lose out, miss NCAA Tournament.

Treading Water: Make NCAA Tournament as a double-digit seed and lose in the first round.

Progress: Top four Big 12 finish.

Pleasant Surprise: Advance to Round of 32.

Beyond Wildest Dreams: Sweet 16 or better.

Dean Wade has been a model of consistency this season. He’s like a golfer that never shoots over par. Even when he doesn’t score 20-plus points he piles up assists and rebounds. He even had four blocks against Texas. He is a very complete player.

1. Faster games. College football games last way too long. They need do away with all the clock stoppages after first downs and quit reviewing so many plays. Switch to the NFL system, let the clock run between snaps and only review non scoring plays when a coach throws his challenge flag. That would cut down on the four-hour games and reduce dead time.

2. Sell beer. Some colleges already do it. Everyone should.

3. Better Wi-Fi in stadiums? I admittedly don’t have a great third suggestion for making the in-stadium experience better than the stay-home experience. Better, and cheaper, concessions would be another good idea. But maybe a stronger Internet connection would help. There is so much dead time at games it would be nice for fans to know they can always check other scores of post photos to Instagram at the stadium.

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett

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