Kansas State's women's basketball team had to wait until the last NCAA Tournament was announced on ESPN Monday evening before the Wildcat name was called as a No. 8 seed in the East Regional.
The Wildcats will play the Purdue Boilermakers at 1:30 on Sunday in Storrs, Ct., and will be joined by No. 1 ranked Connecticut and Hartford in the four-team bracket. The team that wins twice will advance the East Regional in Philadelphia, with the dream of advancing to the Final Four in Indianapolis on April 3 and 5.
Senior Kelsey Hill said, "I am so excited. To go back home (Kansas City) and play one last time was so nice last week, and now to end my career in the NCAA Tournament can't get any bigger."
"This means the world," said junior Jalana Childs. "This is going to be a huge challenge, but such a wonderful opportunity. We have a team of players who have never been (to an NCAA Tournament), and I've only been there as a young one (2009 as a freshman). This is so exciting to me to be involved in another showcase." One of those sitting home and watching postseason play last year was sophomore Brittany Chambers.
Reflecting on last March, she said, "It was absolutely aweful … icky. Watching at home is something I never want to feel again."
And now, "This is such an exciting moment. I didn't realize growing up how hard it was to get in the NCAA Tournament. This is something I've always dreamed of and now we're actually in it." As for the No. 8 seeding, coach Deb Patterson said, "I think a 7 or an 8 either one would have been reasonable for what we brought to the table late in the season, so I think this is about where we would end up."
And with a win would come the opportunity to play No. 1 ranked and the defending national champions from Connecticut.
Childs called the possible matchup against a No. 1 team a "once in a lifetime chance at this caliber in the NCAA Tournament." While Friday's 33-point, 86-53, loss to Baylor was a beating at the Big 12 Championship, Patterson said she had no concerns about her Wildcat team bouncing back.
"I don't think it will be difficult," said the Wildcat coach. "You go back home and it's like, ‘Man, I really didn't do well with that,' and then you get the mistakes fixed. I think we will come back very hungry and motivated by the picture of what we look like when we don't do the little things well, particularly against a well-oiled machine like Baylor."
Patterson went on to say, "I don't think we're going to have to pick our chins up off the floor, or they have a ‘poor me' mentality. We failed at the things we needed to do to be competitive, so you go back home and say, ‘Let's get back to work.' "
ON THE BOILERMAKERS:
On 20-11 Purdue, Patterson said, "They are extremely big and very athletic. It's a very strong athletic basketball team. In most of their matchups they played great basketball. It will be an extremely challenging matchup." Drey Mingo (6-2, Jr) and Brittany Rayburn (6-0, Jr) were third-team All-Big 10 selections, while Courtney Moses (5-7, Fr) made the league's All-Freshman team.
Rayburn leads the team with a 14.4 scoring average, while Moses scored 12.1 per game and Mingo 11.9, plus a team-high 5.9 rebounds. Purdue averaged 65.6 points a game and gave up just 58.9.
Purdue was eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament by Penn State, 73-61, in the quarterfinals.
ONE OF ONLY 14:
Along with K-State being one of only two schools from the Big 12 to have both its basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament, and its football team in a bowl game, the Wildcats are on a list of only 14 schools nation-wide to accomplish the feat.