I’m not one to count my chickens before they hatch, but after last night’s 80-68 win over Kansas State last night, Oklahoma State is likely a lock to make the NCAA tournament this year.
They’re 19-9 overall, 8-7 in Big 12 play, and have won nine of their last 10 games. They have a RPI of 28, a strength of schedule of 24, and three wins over top 50 RPI teams including two on the road. A win over Texas Tech on Saturday will guarantee OSU a .500 record in the Big 12, and as we discussed earlier this week, that practically guarantees a tournament bid.
The question now is, how high up the seeding can Oklahoma State rise? Last Thursday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Cowboys as an 8-seed. Today, after wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State, OSU is up to a 6 seed.
Just two weeks ago, I thought this was as high as Oklahoma State could reach. A six seed after an 0-6 start to conference play seemed like a pipe dream, but here we are.
With three conference games to go, plus the Big 12 Tournament, how high can the Cowboys climb?
OSU’s final three games of the regular season are as follows:
Saturday - Texas Tech | 17-11 | RPI: 100 |
Tuesday - @ Iowa State | 18-9 | RPI: 39 |
Saturday - Kansas | 25-3 | RPI: 1 |
Oklahoma State has the chance to finish Big 12 play with three more wins, two of which we can consider quality. Adding two more victories over Top-50 RPI teams will only boost OSU’s resume, especially if one of those is over RPI No. 1 Kansas.
Add to that, the most likely scenario entering the Big 12 tournament is for Oklahoma State to enter as the 5-seed. That means they would open against either Baylor, West Virginia, or Iowa State (who are all 10-5 in conference play right now). That would mean a game against the No. 6, No. 30, or No. 39 RPI team. A win is another boost.
If OSU wins two of those four games, there’s no reason they can’t rise up even higher.
So let’s look at the teams currently projected as four, five, and six seeds by Lunardi.
FOUR: Duke, Purdue, West Virginia, UCLA
FIVE: Virginia, SMU, Cincinnati, Wisconsin
SIX: Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Creighton
At first glance, I’m going to go ahead and knock out reaching the four-seed line. Three of those teams are still in contention to win their conference (sorry West Virginia). I’m not sure winning out and claiming the Big 12 tournament title would get Oklahoma State to the four line.
The five though?
Wisconsin is currently 22-5, with an RPI of 24 and two wins over Top-25 RPI teams. There is also still a belief (like football) that the Big 10 is really good this year. I’m not sure I see it, but they won’t be easy to jump.
Virginia is currently 18-9, with an RPI of 20, and six wins over Top-50 RPI teams. The ACC is the deepest conference in college basketball this year, so while they’re overall record may not be any better than OSU’s, 18 wins when your strength of schedule is ranked 5th is impressive.
Cincinnati (24-3) and SMU (24-4) are tied atop the American Athletic which, as a conference, is having a down year. They are the only two teams likely to get in (unless Houston goes on some run in the AAC tournament). Despite their similar records, the two teams are not equal. The Bearcats have the No. 14 RPI, two wins over Top-25 RPI teams, including Iowa State, and zero bad losses. SMU has an RPI of 19, but only one Top-50 win to hang their hats on, which was Cincinnati.
Final analysis? I think if OSU wins at least two more games, they lock up a 6 seed, which would be their highest seeding since 2013, when OSU was a 5 seed.
If the Cowboys can win more than two more games, a 5 seed is in play.
Where do you think OSU ends up seeded? Vote in the poll below, and share your thoughts in the comments section.