Play time is Over

Play time is over for the Kansas State women's basketball team. It's time to get real. Real, as in Big 12 Conference play.

After finishing the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 9-2 record for the second year in a row, the No. 20 Wildcats begin the long trek through the conference slate on Wednesday at Iowa State and Saturday at the University of Kansas.

Different this year is that the Wildcats move from being the hunter to the hunted as the league's defending regular season co-champs with Texas.

"You know it's going to be an all out battle every night,'' coach Deb Patterson said. "You know everyone in this league is going to come at you and has every potential to beat you if you're not at your very best.

"You've got to be at your best, and on the road you've got to be prepared for hostile environments and a great deal of emotion."

Patterson doesn't feel a real sense of surprise with the results of the non-conference season. The teams that were expected to do well — Texas (7-3), Texas Tech (9-2) and Baylor (10-1) — have done just that and are playing extremely well.

Nebraska (8-4) and Iowa State (10-1) have gotten better and are both playing with more confidence than a year ago.

The Bears lone blemish was a one-point loss at a neutral site during the season opener against No. 1 LSU, while the Cyclones lost on the road at Iowa.

Colorado (6-4) has struggled with early non-conference games, but Patterson believes the Buffaloes are beginning to get back on track.

"Sometimes they're slow starters, but they are there in the end," Patterson said of Ceal Barry's squad.

Perhaps one surprise in the preseason has been the play of Gary Blair's aggressive and athletic Texas A&M (9-1) squad.

"Simply because of the athleticism and the talented young freshmen that Gary Blair has brought into that program, I think they're very, very dangerous," Patterson said. "They have been very successful in non-conference. Part of that is a function of scheduling, but I think it has also given them a great deal of confidence. Their quickness and athleticism can match with anyone in the league."

Overall, Patterson feels the league is playing out as highly competitive, with the top three teams perhaps distancing themselves a little bit from the rest of the conference in the preseason, particularly Texas and Baylor.

"It's going to be an all out war," she said. "We'll see where it all leads. I know were ready. It's time for that next step."

Patterson isn't the only person chomping at the bit to begin defense of the Wildcats' crown.

"It's the part of the season that you really play for and all your preseason games aim toward," senior guard Laurie Koehn said. "I think were excited to get going."

"We've still got a few kinks to work out in practice, but we're ready," Twiggy McIntyre said.

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