KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Heading into the Big 12 Tournament, Deb Patterson said it didn't matter whether the Kansas State women's basketball team faced Iowa State or Nebraska today inside Municipal Auditorium.
Either way, she figured the Wildcats would like the matchup.
They can still hardly believe their strong finish to the regular season — an upset victory over No. 5 Texas A&M followed by a road win at Kansas — was good enough to earn a No. 4 seed and coveted first-round bye. In some ways, today's game is a reward.
"We had no idea that would really be a reality," Patterson said. "It's amazing to think we do have the bye. Hopefully we can take advantage of the extra day of preparation."
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With an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament seemingly assured for K-State (20-9, 10-6 Big 12), it's not essential that the Wildcats improve their winning streak to three. But it's not like the game is void of meaning.
Playing two hours east of home, a decent crowd should come out to cheer it on, and there is always revenge to think about. The Cyclones, who defeated the Cornhuskers 69-61 in a first-round tournament game Tuesday, swept the Wildcats in the regular season.
Plus, K-State wants to continue building momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament. Patterson has coached the Wildcats long enough — including seven NCAA appearances — to know it is sometimes easy for teams to let down this time of year.
After fighting through an entire season of ups and downs, players have a tendency to let down before the tournament begins.
"It's hard to keep getting up for the next game when you're young," Patterson said. "It might seem like it wouldn't be, but mentally I feel like it's the greatest challenge.... Knowing the NCAA is there for us, this might be the toughest challenge we've faced all year. This game on Wednesday, for us, is a real big challenge."
"I think we played our best basketball last week, and I hope it continues because now is the time to do it," Patterson said. "But every day is the next day. We have to see what these players will bring to the floor next."