Kansas State Left Out Of NCAA Tournament Field

Sunday, March 11th 2007, 7:38 pm
By: News On 6

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Despite a turnaround season under first-year coach Bob Huggins, Kansas State made dubious Big 12 Conference history when the Wildcats were snubbed by the NCAA tournament on Sunday.

The Wildcats were the first Big 12 team to win at least 20 games overall and earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament, yet fail to make the NCAA field.

The Wildcats (22-11) placed fourth in the Big 12 with a 10-6 record, their best finish since the league began play in 1996-97. It still wasn't good enough to land their first NCAA bid since 1996.

The Wildcats were chosen as the second seed in the NIT's west regional and will host seventh-seeded Vermont (25-7) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Kansas State last played in the NIT in 1998.

In a telephone interview with ESPN, Huggins said the Wildcats can't put all the blame on the selection committee for its NCAA snub.

``The reality is, we should have won more games,'' Huggins said. ``If we win more games, we don't have to worry about any of this.''

The committee bypassed Kansas State for the Big 12's fifth-place team, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders likely got in based on regular-season victories over Kansas and Texas A&M, while Kansas State's only quality win in the Big 12 was against Texas.

Kansas State had hoped its quarterfinal rout of Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament would cement its NCAA berth. Now, the Wildcats can only hope for a momentum-building NIT run.

Texas Tech also had to play the Longhorns, Aggies and Oklahoma State _ all ranked at some point this season _ twice in Big 12 South play, while Kansas was the only ranked team in the North Division.

Still, Kansas coach Bill Self said, the Wildcats deserved a bid and the Big 12 should have had more than four teams in the tournament.

``Every coach in our league would say we don't like it,'' said Self, whose team swept Kansas State in three games this season. ``It also happened two years ago when Colorado was 10-6 in the league and didn't get in.''

Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg also said the Wildcats had made their case for an NCAA bid, but stopped short of criticizing the committee.

``I really think when you compare them against some of the teams that were from other _ not necessarily the so-called mid-major group, just the other major conferences _ you could make a very good case for Kansas State,'' Weiberg said. ``A head-to-head win over Southern Cal, some of those kinds of things.

``I know it had to be a hard call for the committee. It always is.''