Win the series.
Three words illustrate the cleanest path Kansas University's baseball team can take to the Big 12 Conference tournament, which starts next week in Oklahoma City. The Jayhawks (30-24 overall, 9-15 in Big 12 play) are guaranteed a spot in the eight-team tournament if they win two out of three against Kansas State starting Friday.
"We just want to get in," sophomore Robby Price said. "We control our own destiny right now, and that's all we want. If we take care of business, we'll get in the Big 12 tournament."
Kansas ranks seventh in the 10-team league (Iowa State and Colorado do not field teams). That means only two teams are shut out of the conference tournament. Heading into the final weekend, nobody is out of contention yet.
Texas A&M;, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas are guaranteed a spot. Baylor (10-14) is in sixth and is a lock if it wins one this weekend against Texas Tech.
That leaves four teams battling for two spots - and of those four, Kansas is in the best shape. The Jayhawks are a half game ahead of Oklahoma (8-15), one full game ahead of Kansas State (8-16) and two games ahead of Texas Tech (7-17).
If Kansas beats Kansas State twice this weekend, it would guarantee that the Jayhawks would finish ahead of both Texas Tech and K-State in the standings, thus locking up a tournament spot.
Win zero or one, it gets muddy.
¢ If Kansas goes 1-2 against K-State, the two in-state schools would finish an identical 10-17 in conference play, and K-State would get the tiebreaker having won the season series over KU.
However, that doesn't eliminate Kansas - it just makes the Jayhawks scoreboard-watchers. In this scenario, Oklahoma would need to go 1-2 or worse this weekend against Oklahoma State to keep the Jayhawks ahead in the standings. Texas Tech would be eliminated if KU and KSU both get 10 conference victories.
¢ If the Jayhawks go 0-3 against the Wildcats, they'll need to cross their fingers. In that case, Oklahoma State will need to sweep Oklahoma, and Baylor will have to win at least one against Texas Tech.
It's all a little chaotic, which makes the three-word alternative that much more desirable: Win the series.
KU coach Ritch Price is happy his team has a shot at this point. The Jayhawks lost top starters Andy Marks and Wally Marciel to arm injuries, but have won four of their last six conference games.
"That's a pretty good accomplishment for our team to have overcome that," Ritch Price said.
Overcoming it has given Kansas a chance - but there's still work to do.