By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor men’s basketball is in danger of not making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 — a result that would snap the program’s longest NCAA Tournament appearance streak.
The Bears hold an 18-12 record overall, going 8-9 in Big 12 action with a chance to finish conference play at .500 as they face Kansas State at 1 p.m. Saturday in Manhattan, Kan.
According to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, the Bears are currently slotted at a No. 11 seed as one of the last four teams with a first-round bye.
CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm, however, puts Baylor squarely on the outside of the tournament.
Some important metrics the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looks at to decide the 68-team field are RPI, quadrant wins, and strength of schedule.
RPI, or ratings percentage index, is a percentage that ranks each team based on their wins and losses. The Bears are currently 56 in RPI.
Quadrants are a new concept that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee created this year to rank teams. A quadrant one win, for example, is a win at home versus an RPI 1-30 team, a win at a neutral site over an RPI 1-50 team or a win on the road against an RPI 1-75 team.
Baylor has four quadrant one wins: Creighton in Kansas City, Kansas at home, Texas Tech at home and Texas on the road.
Strength of schedule measures the difficulty of a team’s games over the season. Baylor is ranked sixth in the country in strength of schedule due to the difficulty of the Big 12, but also non-conference opponents Xavier, Wichita State, Florida and Creighton.
The strength of the Big 12 has resulted in nine of Baylor’s 12 losses, but it also presents more chances to make up ground. A win over any one of five (Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma, TCU) of the conference’s 10 teams in the Big 12 Tournament would count as a quadrant one win.
The Bears’ win over No. 36 RPI Oklahoma on Tuesday just missed the quadrant one cutoff, but it still contributed to an increase in Baylor’s RPI ranking.
“We had so much at stake,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said following the team’s 87-64 senior night win over Oklahoma.
The Bears’ trip to Manhattan on Saturday presents another opportunity for an RPI booster. The Kansas State Wildcats sit at No. 62 in the RPI rankings, so a Baylor win would mean one more quadrant one victory on the resume.
Senior guard Manu Lecomte said the team recognizes the importance of each game if they want to keep their tournament hopes alive.
“Every game is a must-win now,” Lecomte said. “We got one more game against K-State, but as long as we bring the same mentality and same intensity, energy and unselfishness, we’re going to be alright.”
The Bears have made the NCAA Tournament just 11 times in school history, but have made an appearance in six of the last eight years.