Kansas State punches ticket with win over No. 9 Baylor

2 Comments

TCU wasn’t the only Big 12 team to improve their NCAA Tournament résumé.

Hours after the Horned Frogs willed their way back into the bubble conversation, Kansas State likely punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 70-64 quarterfinal win over No. Baylor.

At the start of the day, the Wildcats were listed as “Last Four In” in the latest NBC Sports bracketology projections. A second win over the Bears this season means the K-State is probably dancing on Sunday. In addition to a pair of victories on Baylor, the Wildcats have also defeated West Virginia and won at Oklahoma State. They were one travel call away from owning a win over the nation’s top-ranked team.

Baylor’s problems emerged once again, and K-State took full advantage, playing with the type of hunger you’d expect from a bubble team. Twelve Baylor turnovers turned into 18 K-State points. Again, the Bears struggled offensively outside of Johnathan Motley. The All-American big man 13 points and seven boards, but missed a few minutes in the second half after dislocating a finger in his left hand. Manu Lecomte added 13, while it was until late in regulation that Al Freeman reached double figures, ending with at team-high 16.

Barry Brown had a game-high 21 points and D.J. Johnson followed with a baker’s dozen.

Earlier in the day, we talked about Kansas and the impact — or lack thereof — its loss to TCU would have on Selection Sunday. The consensus is the Jayhawks have done too much to be bumped from the No. 1 seed. They may not be the No. 1 overall seed, but they should be the top team in the Midwest Region. I’m not so sure we can feel as confident about the Bears.

A team that once boasted a 20-1 record and the No. 1 ranking in the country heads into the NCAA Tournament losing six of its last 11 games. This doesn’t appear to be the same team that put forth an impressive non-conference résumé.

Maybe a quarterfinal loss won’t impact the Bears’ seeding too much, as several team on the next projected line — Butler and Virginia — have both been bounced early from their respective conference tournaments. And perhaps they could use a week to get healthy. Motley will have time to rest his finger, while Manu Lecomte continues to work his way back from an ankle injury that sidelined him the previous two games.

But given its play since the start of February and the lingering issues surrounding its turnover woes and habit of offensive droughts, it’s fair to be skeptical of Baylor when filling out your bracket.

Kansas State advances to play No. 2 seed West Virginia on Friday.