No. 12 Texas Tech, Kansas State meet with postseason dreams at stake
There will be a lot on the line Monday night as Kansas State travels to Lubbock, Texas, to face No. 12 Texas Tech in the penultimate game of the regular season for both teams.
Kansas State will be fighting for its postseason life, while Texas Tech will be on a final push for a share of its second Big 12 regular-season championship in four years and a high seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Texas Tech (22-7, 11-5 Big 12) lost a great chance at making up ground with Kansas in the Big 12 race when the Red Raiders lost to TCU 69-66 on Saturday night in Fort Worth. Following Monday's game against Kansas State, the Raiders will finish the regular season on the road at Oklahoma State.
No. 6 Kansas, which lost to then-No. 10 Baylor 80-70 on Saturday, leads the Bears by a half-game and Texas Tech by a game and a half heading into the season's final week.
Texas Tech has exceeded nearly everyone's expectations this season after former head coach Chris Beard moved on to Texas. But Beard's longtime assistant, defensive specialist Mark Adams, has the Raiders playing at a level that resembles the program's 2018-19 conference championship team that played in the national championship game.
"Same problems we've had at times," Adams said after Saturday's loss. "We didn't share the ball and just didn't make the easy passes. We're trying to make some home-run plays. Not going to take anything away from TCU. They did a good job guarding us."
Kansas State (14-14, 6-10) has no margin for error if it wants to play after the Big 12 Championship next weekend as its chances for an NCAA Tournament bid have dimmed. The Wildcats realistically need to beat the Red Raiders, win at home against Oklahoma on Saturday and claim at least one win in the Big 12 tournament to even be in the discussion for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. The NIT requires a .500 record or better, so the Wildcats could be in danger of not getting into the postseason at all.
The Wildcats could have been in that discussion for an NCAA berth before three straight losses, including Saturday's 74-73 home loss to Iowa State, put them on the brink of disaster.
The Wildcats trailed 70-60 with 2:10 remaining but a 10-2 run trimmed the deficit to just two points with 49 seconds left. With the score still 72-70, Iowa State's Jaden Walker forced a turnover by Nijel Pack with four seconds left.
After a timeout, the Wildcats fouled Aljaz Kunc, and he hit a pair of free throws with two seconds left to five Iowa State a 74-70 lead. Pack's half-court shot as time expired left the Wildcats a point short.
"We had a chance at the end, we had the ball and down two," Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said of the pivotal play. "Obviously, we got it to Nijel. I guess give them credit. They got physical with him, and we didn't get the call or a shot off at the end."
Even with the bigger picture front and center, the Red Raiders also will have revenge on their minds. Kansas State's first Big 12 victory this season came at the hands of Texas Tech, 62-51 on Jan. 15. The 51 points were the second-fewest total of the season. They lost 51-47 at Iowa State on Jan. 5.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2022