Kansas plays Kansas State this weekend to end the regular season. The two teams will meet in Lawrence on Friday at 6PM and then play two in Manhattan, Saturday 6:30PM and Sunday 2PM. A glance at the Big-12 standings will bring home the importance of this series. Neither the Jayhawks or the Wildcats have any hope of earning an NCAA at-large invite so the only path open to either team for post-season play is to win the conference auto-bid in Oklahoma City next week. Only the top eight teams are invited to the Big-12 tournament. Neither team is assured of a top-eight finish yet.
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Breaking down the Big-12 End Game - The top five teams have already clinched berths in the Big-12 tournament. Of the second five, Baylor is close to a lock. I think the only way the Bears are knocked out at this point is if Kansas State sweeps Kansas, Oklahoma sweeps Oklahoma State and Baylor is swept by Texas Tech. On the opposite side, Texas Tech will need quite a bit of help to qualify. Oklahoma and Kansas both own tie breakers over the Red Raiders so TTU would need to beat Baylor this weekend, and hope that both Kansas and Oklahoma lose their series to sneak in.
It really is the 7, 8 and 9 teams that are the most interesting part of this equation. Only two will make the tournament. Since this is a Kansas blog, let's focus on Jayhawk scenarios.
If Kansas wins two or three games this weekend over Kansas State - They are in.
If Kansas wins one of three games this weekend vs. Kansas State - They are in only if Oklahoma State wins its series over Oklahoma, a scenario that is likely.
If Kansas is swept by Kansas State - The Jayhawks could still make the tournament, but only if Oklahoma is also swept AND Texas Tech losses its series vs. Baylor.
So, First - Kansas controls its own destiny. Second - Even if the Jayhawks stumble, they still have a fair shot at getting in. Only if KU collapses this weekend are they likely to miss the conference tournament.
Friday 6PM: Nick Czyz (2-6, 6.03 ERA) vs. Brad Hutt (5-4, 3.83 ERA)
Saturday 6:30PM: Andres Esquibel (3-4, 5.48) vs. Chase Bayuk (1-4, 6.62)
Sunday 2PM: T.J. Walz (4-1, 4.50) vs. Justin Murray (2-2, 3.84)
Media: KLWN AM-1320 will broadcast all three games live. Steaming video will be available through this site for the Friday game.
It is such a busy week here at KU that I will have to keep the series preview short at this time, but, if I had to summarize K-State's team in just a few words - Sneaky good and peeking late. Light offense, effective if not spectacular starting pitching. Get to them early because their closer, Daniel Edwards, is an All-American candidate.
KU will honor eleven graduating seniors just before the Friday night game. This is a special group. John Allman, Matt Berner, Justin Ellrich, Andres Esquibel, Hiarali Garcia, Matt Lane, Casey Larson, Erik Morrison, Ryne Price, Eric Snowden, and Joe Southers.
That is a stand-out class. A lot of names in there which KU will have a hard time replacing. If you haven't been to a Senior Night before, make the effort. The team does it right. The seniors are honored individually before the game with a video highlight of their career. Their parents are brought on the field and Coach Price thanks the whole family for years of sacrifice and hard work. Come to the game about a half hour early tonight and give these men a warm send-off.