TCU and Kansas State will christen the 2015 Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City tonight. The Frogs and Wildcats are facing each other for the third time this season after splitting the season series. The home team won each contest in the regular season. The winner of tonight's contest will keep their NIT hopes alive and advance to take on the top-seeded tomorrow afternoon. The loser could be CBI bound or could see their season end altogether. To preview the matchup, I caught back up with TheBigE from Bring on the Cats. Check out my responses to his questions right here.
1. The Wildcats finished the regular season 15-16 and 8-10 in the Big 12. What is your overall feeling about how the season went? What did the 'Cats do well and what do you hope will improve for next season?
I would say the overall feeling of this season is one of disappointment, and when taken in context of wins against KU, ISU, BU, sweep of OU...one of not just could-have-been, but probably should-have-been. Seven top-50 wins isn't anything to scoff at, but the six sub-100 losses are...bad. Statistically, about the only thing that K-State did well consistently this season is get to the free throw line. Unfortunately, it just feels the team spent most of the season searching for something, and we're not much closer to finding it now than we were back in November. We need to improve in many facets, but without getting philosophical, our offensive efficiency, turnovers and rebounding need major boosts.
2. Kansas State had a pretty inconsistent finish to the season, falling to TCU and Baylor before rebounding to beat #8 Kansas and #12 Iowa State in Manhattan. What is going on with the 'Cats?
What you're seeing is a team that is exhibiting the traits of being young with relatively weak leadership - a team that is comfortable at home within the friendly confines in front of their fans, but struggles mightily on the road. Including a game against Pittsburgh in Maui, the Cats failed to break 50 points five times on the road. They can defend and slow the game down well enough to compete anywhere, but just can't seem to put the ball in the basket.
3. TCU and Kansas State split the season series, with the home team winning each contest. What do you think is the biggest key for the Wildcats to advance in the Big 12 Tournament? What do the Frogs need to do to win?
The simplest way for K-State to advance in the Big 12 tourney is to play like its a home game. Having the game in Kansas City certainly helps, so I would expect the Cats to play decent. They've already had the pleasure of a game in the Sprint Center, a 71-64 victory over Texas A&M. I think this game comes down to whether K-State can make baskets. In general, if the Cats can convert at greater than 40%FG for the game, they've come out victorious. But if TCU can keep it under 40%, that will bode well for the Frogs.
4. The winner of this game faces the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday. The Wildcats have proven that they can beat both TCU and Kansas. What do you think is the ceiling for this team in Kansas City and beyond?
Well, I'd say the ceiling for this team is competitive with other top-10 teams...but that is certainly not where they spend much of their time. The floor is...low. Really low. But it is for anyone that doesn't show up to play on any given night. Honestly, I think they make it out of the TCU game, but coming into the next round on no rest, the Cats get shellacked by KU. If there's one physical thing that has popped up over and over again this season, its that our players' conditioning leaves a lot to be desired. Bets are there is no postseason for K-State - the scenario I just painted is a 16-17 season, and the NIT has never taken a team with a losing record. The university has apparently already stated they won't accept a CBI invite, and NCAA Bubble? Bah.
5. Finally, what is your prediction for this game? Will the Wildcats find themselves and advance to the Quarterfinals, or will the Frogs pick up their first Big 12 Tournament victory in program history?
I think the semi-home game feel of the Sprint Center will help the Cats immensely in this one. I'm seeing a 8-point K-State win, something like 67-59. It comes down to shooting, though. If we come out poorly, missing shots either because of TCU's defense or on our own accord, it could easily go the Frogs' way. I think we could use a 30-point first half as a benchmark. If K-State scores 30 or more in the first half, I like the Wildcats to finish it out and advance.
Special thanks to TheBigE and the team at Bring on the Cats. Look for continued coverage of TCU vs. Kansas State and the Big 12 Tournament right here leading up to tonight's game.