Kansas State coach Deb Patterson wants to do things a little differently this year.
She wants her team to play at a faster-pace than it has in the past. She is asking point guard Brittany Chambers to look inside more often than last year, and rely less on the outside shot. She also wants to return to the postseason.
If her young roster embraces their coach's two on-court desires, Patterson figures the Wildcats will once again play meaningful basketball in March after a one-year hiatus.
"That's really how we're approaching the season," Patterson said.
Big 12 coaches voted K-State to finish ninth in their preseason league poll, and Patterson has no arguments.
Julianne Chisolm and Shalin Spani are the only seniors on the roster, and the plan is to build around junior forward Jalana Childs and Chambers, a sophomore. That type of combination rarely challenges for a league championship.
But what K-State lacks in experienced talent, Patterson hopes to make up for with a 13-player roster that's filled with energy and enthusiasm.
"We've had a better level of competition in the gym," she said. "More of a spirited competition when you have more bodies. If you have a few players who aren't exactly snap, crackle, pop, you can answer it with intensity and productivity from others. It's been great."
Still, the Wildcats face a rebuilding project. Kari Kincaid and Ashley Sweat are gone from a bunch that went 14-18 last year and won five conference games. A spot in the NIT is much more likely than contending for the NCAA Tournament.
But Chambers came on strong last season as a point guard, and Patterson is excited to see what she is capable of with a year behind her.
"We've got, I think, one of the best young point guards in the league," Patterson said. "And that definitely excites me. We've had some great point guards at Kansas State, and I think she lines up with the very best we've ever had. And so it's neat to think about starting a season with her at the helm."
Chambers averaged 12.1 points last year and is the team's top returning scorer, but will be asked to spread the ball around. Childs, Branshea Brown, Brianna Kulas and Alina Voronenko will all be asked to score inside. It will be up to Chambers to increase their point totals, and decrease the Wildcats' 633 attempts from beyond the arc last season.
But Taelor Karr and Spani will be asked to score some on the perimeter.
If they can find a good balance early on, the Wildcats are confident they can carry that momentum into March.