With a Tournament Bid Secured, K-State Basketball Has Tough Test Ahead in Big 12 Tournament
K-State finished the Big 12 basketball regular season with an 11-7 conference record, which was good enough to earn the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament this weekend. Considering the team was picked to finish dead last in the Big 12 before the season, the entire season was a pleasant surprise. Head coach Jerome Tang was named Big 12 coach of the year, point guard Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson were named to the All-Big 12 first team, and Johnson was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
The Wildcats are a lock for the NCAA tournament. The only items in question are the seed they might get and where they will travel. I’ve seen projections as high as a two-seed. They would have to do pretty well this weekend to earn a two-seed. I believe they will have to make the conference tournament final. It will be tough for them to get there.
K-State plays six-seed TCU on Thursday evening, and their prospects for winning that game look a lot better with the news that TCU center Eddie Lampkin did not make the trip to Kansas City, leaving the program. Lampkin started 19 games this season for the Horned Frogs, averaging 6.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
Jerome Tang’s Wildcats lost 82-68 to TCU in Fort Worth on January 14th, but got revenge at home, winning 82-61 in Manhattan on February 7th. Lampkin had 17 points and six rebounds in the victory in Fort Worth, but was not a factor in the loss in Manhattan, with zero points and one rebound. Not having Lampkin hinders TCU’s chances to beat K-State, so I like the Wildcats’ chances to defeat TCU on Thursday.
Round two may be a different story. K-State will likely play the Texas Longhorns, the number two seed in the tournament. K-State beat Texas in Austin early in the season, 116-103, on January 3rd, but lost the return meeting in Bramlage, 69-66 February 4th. Texas is coming off a big win against Kansas on Saturday and has a lot of momentum. I have a feeling that this game will be close but that Texas will win. K-State’s turnover problem has returned, and until I see proof that they can get it under control, I don’t feel confident picking them to win. If they get by Texas, a likely rematch with Kansas looms. K-State split the season series with the Jayhawks, so they have proven the ability to beat them. Should the two play, it will likely be a close, competitive game coming down to the end.
Can K-State win the Big 12 tournament? It’s possible, but they’ll have to take care of the ball and will likely have to beat two top 10 teams to do it. Unfortunately, I don’t like their chances to beat Texas and Kansas in back-to-back days. Even so, we’ve seen some unexpected things in the past in this tournament and anything can happen. Whatever happens, this team will be in the NCAA tournament next week, and Jerome Tang and his coaching staff have K-State basketball back on the right track.