BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The science of NCAA seeding might be ever changing for the Kansas State women, but one thing remains constant — they always seem to end up in Connecticut.
For the third time in their last four NCAA trips, the Wildcats have been dispatched to the New England state where they will open up against Ivy League champion Princeton at 10:20 a.m. Saturday at the Webster Bank Arena.
Despite holding the nation’s 17th-best RPI and playing in the top-ranked Big 12 conference, K-State (19-13) earned no better than an eighth seed for the second straight season. It also wound up with a potentially dangerous first-round foe in Princeton (24-4), which ranks No. 24 in the nation and rides a 17-game winning streak.
“I think that’s always in the hands of the committee,” said K-State coach Deb Patterson during Friday’s media session. “Making judgments for the committee is like blowing hot air into a balloon, it doesn’t matter.
“I think every year the committee evolves, people change. Who in the world knows why two years in a row you are an eight seed and you are sent to the same location? It’s just what it is.”
K-State is 10-12 in the NCAA Tournament, but is 0-3 when seeded No. 8 or lower. The Wildcats lost to another No. 9, Purdue, in last season’s opening round in Storrs and are 1-2 overall in Connecticut. K-State, as the fifth seed, beat Chattanooga here in the 2008 opener, but lost to Louisville in the second round.
“I think that this year was a year we felt we could have gotten a better seed,” K-State junior Brittany Chambers said. “We had about four games where the team kind of let up at the end of the season, which I think if we had played the basketball that we are playing now, it would have been a different story. I think besides the last four games, we’ve shown ourselves to be a great team.
“Unfortunately, we let those last four slide, but yeah, I think this team is really figuring it out. We expect to be in the NCAA Tournament and if we don’t make it, then it’s not OK.
“I don’t know, I just feel like we are progressing and playing better basketball.”
The Ivy League has not traditionally been a basketball powerhouse, but the Tigers did become the only school from the conference to crack the top 25 this season. Princeton is 0-2 the past two years in the tournament and only Harvard, which beat top-seeded Stanford in 1998, has a win in the postseason.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘So you got Princeton, you are going to win, right?’ ” K-State senior Jalana Childs said. “I don’t know anything about their team, but I can’t just assume we are going to go in and win. It’s NCAA time and everyone is going to be good, so we have to stay tough together.”
Princeton played five tournament teams, beating only Marist, while the Wildcats had 19 games against NCAA foes, including three losses to No. 1 Baylor.
Led by Ivy League Player of the Year Niveen Rasheed and a senior class that went 28-0 in the conference the past two seasons, the Tigers are not expected to be a pushover.
In fact, they come in rather confident.
“It’s really hard to win a tournament game and we are so appreciative of really knowledgeable sources recognizing this is a team that can and should win this game,” Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said. “Lets repeat: We can and should win this game.
“The problem is you have to go out and do it.”