Dean Wade isn’t hiding his thoughts. He hopes the Kansas State men’s basketball team plays in the NIT.
“That would be very positive,” said Wade, a freshman forward. “That would let us send the seniors out on a high note, and it would be good for the whole program to have some postseason play.”
Junior wing Wesley Iwundu agrees. Though he played in the NCAA Tournament as a freshman and hopes the Wildcats can return there this season with an unlikely championship run at the Big 12 Tournament, he doesn’t look down on the NIT.
“It would mean a lot, because we have a lot of young dudes,” Iwundu said. “Going forward, if we are fortunate enough to make the postseason next year, it will be good to get to the NIT so guys can get a feeling for what is expected of teams playing that late in the year.”
K-State players will use the NIT as extra motivation as the Wildcats prepare for their next game, a 6 p.m. clash Wednesday with Oklahoma State in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament.
If the Wildcats want their season to continue, a victory over the Cowboys might be essential. At 16-15, with a 5-13 Big 12 mark and a RPI of 83, K-State is on the NIT bubble. It’s possible the Wildcats have already done enough to earn an invitation. Then again, maybe not. The worst record selected for an at-large bid into the NIT a year ago was 17-15. The worst RPI was 104. The last Big 12 team to make the NIT with 16 victories was Missouri in 2005.
K-State may need to beat Oklahoma State to feel good about its chances. Perhaps it needs two wins in Kansas City.
Coach Bruce Weber made his team’s case on Monday.
“We deserve to be in the NIT,” Weber said. “If we can find a way to beat Oklahoma State, we will play our 17th game against top 25 RPI (teams). No one else is going to be able to do that in the country. Now, we haven’t won many of them, but no one else has even played them. Our record outside of that is really, really good.”
Online projections can’t agree on K-State’s odds.
The Bracket Matrix, lists K-State comfortably in the NIT’s field of 32 teams as a No. 2 seed, getting a first-round matchup with Virginia Tech. But many others have the Wildcats on the outside looking in. Upsets in conference tournaments have complicated things. The regular-season champions of each conference are guaranteed a spot in the NIT if they miss the NCAA Tournament. Every time the top seed falls in a low-major tournament, K-State’s NIT chances decrease.
The Wildcats aren’t worried about that, though. Their focus is on the Cowboys. K-State beat Oklahoma State 89-73 at home in January, but that victory came with injured point guard Kamau Stokes in the lineup. Without him, the Cowboys won the rematch 58-55.
K-State will need a better effort if it wants to make the NIT.
“We just have to get the guys on board,” Iwundu said. “This is win or go home. Either you want it or you don’t. If you want it, you go out there and play. If you don’t, stay in the locker room. You have to come with it and bring your A-game, because everybody else is going to bring their A-game. Nobody is taking you lightly. Everyone is going to play their best game, so you have got to go out there and show up.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett