MANHATTAN — Jerry Palm, the self-described "resident sports geek at CBS Sports," openly admits he has a rooting interest in Bruce Weber and the Kansas State Wildcats as they chase their second straight NCAA Tournament berth.

"I'm a Purdue guy," Palm says, "so I'd like to see them pull it off, because I'd like to see Coach Weber in the tournament."

Weber, of course, was a longtime Purdue assistant under College Basketball Hall of Famer Gene Keady. So it isn't difficult to understand why Palm has an affinity for someone with Boilermaker ties.

But as much as Palm is pulling for Weber, CBS' senior writer and esteemed bracketologist knows full well that the Wildcats have work to do entering the final four games of the regular reason. The question: How much work?

"They can't afford a losing streak," Palm says. "I don't know if they truly have to be hot, but they certainly can't go cold."

The reason for that traces back to the season's first two months. While the Wildcats (19-8, 8-6 Big 12) shared third place in the Big 12 standings as of Tuesday, they have yet to shed a nonconference schedule that hangs like an albatross around their necks.

History, not hyperbole, tells us as much. Palm notes that K-State could set a record this season. The mark for worst noncon strength of schedule by an NCAA at-large selection currently is held by the 2006 George Washington squad, which received an 8-seed despite a SOS of 323.

K-State's noncon SOS: 318. While the Wildcats' ranking isn't worse than George Washington's right now, Palm reminds us the number will fluctuate as K-State's noncon opponents play their final games.

"It could go up or down," he says.

Precarious? You bet K-State's situation is precarious as it prepares to host Texas (16-11, 6-8) at 8 p.m. Wednesday. And it's almost entirely because of that 318 ranking.

"It's one of those things, it's so bad that if you've got a 10- or 11-seed resume, you could be left out," Palm says. "You've got to be well into the field (to keep from being snubbed). You've got to play that thing out of their mind. You've got to make it so it's impossible for them to turn you down."

Palm cited the 2011 Missouri team to illustrate his point. During the past decade, the 2011 Tigers were the only team to make the NCAA field as a double-digit seed with a noncon SOS of 240 or below. Mizzou, with a 240 ranking, was seeded 11th.

Although the guest list to this year's Dance is certain to change before the Selection Show airs on March 11, Palm currently lists the Wildcats as a double-digit seed — a No. 10 playing, ironically, Missouri in a West Regional opener at Nashville, Tenn.

"It just goes to show, you can get in with a bad nonconference schedule, but you usually have to be so good otherwise that it's a non-factor for you," Palm says.

So what does K-State need to do to make its noncon slate a non-factor?

With a remaining schedule featuring home games against UT and Baylor sandwiched around road contests at Oklahoma and TCU, Palm believes a 2-2 finish would leave the Wildcats in a relatively comfortable position. But he also is quick to note that K-State wouldn't be an absolute lock at 21-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big 12.

"Here's the thing you have to keep in mind: It's all relative," he says. "When you're a team that's near the cut line, you don't really control your own destiny, short of winning the conference tournament. You might think you've done enough and then Rhode Island gets beat in their conference tournament and it's not enough anymore."

The Wildcats also won't get extra credit for finishing among the top half of the Big 12. While that feat certainly would be a feather in the team's cap and couldn't hurt K-State in any way, conference standings simply aren't considered by the NCAA selection committee.

Longtime K-State fans understand that, mindful that the 2007 team under Bob Huggins was snubbed despite finishing fourth in the league. Meanwhile, Texas Tech, the league's fifth-place finisher and a team K-State defeated in the Big 12 Tournament, received an at-large spot.

Palm even notes that this year's Nebraska team potentially could finish 13-5 in the Big Ten and still find itself on the outside looking in. "That would be far and away a record," he says, explaining that the Cornhuskers suffer from an imbalanced Big Ten schedule that has them playing only one game each against fellow league powers Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan.

"Where you place in your conference, what your conference record is, they don't care," Palm says. "You're not judged on that at all. It's trivia, not criteria."

No matter how strong the Wildcats finish during the final two or three weeks, that nonconference schedule only will allow them to climb so high on the selection committee's seeding chart. Short of making a run all the way to the Big 12 Tournament championship, Palm estimates K-State's tournament ceiling to be somewhere in the 7-seed range.

But even though they're somewhat limited, a strong finish would do the Wildcats a world of good, because it would allow them to climb down from the NCAA bubble they've been riding for the better part of two years now.

K-State is finished playing the Big 12's other top-tier teams (Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia), but all four of its remaining games can bolster its resume and also damage resumes of other bubble teams with which K-State will be compared. Road wins at OU and TCU could be especially helpful, possibly giving K-State two more coveted Quadrant 1 victories, but don't discount the importance of the next game on K-State's schedule.

Texas is in an even more precarious position than K-State. Both Palm and ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi list the Longhorns among the First Four field at Dayton, Ohio, meaning Wednesday's tilt is an opportunity for the Wildcats to further distance themselves from a team with similar credentials.

"Another critical Big 12 matchup," Lunardi, who lists K-State as an 11-seed, said Monday night during halftime of the Kansas-Oklahoma game. "It seems like they all are."

For the record, the Wildcats are perfectly clear about the tasks and opportunities that await.

"Every game’s important, any win you get," Weber says, noting that K-State still has a chance to sweep six of the league's 10 teams. "Every game’s different. Every game means something. Nothing’s easy in our league."

But for K-State, that's a good thing. The stern Big 12 slate stands in stark contrast to that soft nonconference season that continues to be a blight on the Wildcats' resume.

"All they can do is keep winning to get that thing out of play," Palm says. "It's possible. Their schedule gives them opportunities to do that."