Before they had a chance to scout their next opponent, Kansas State seniors Breanna Lewis and Kindred Wesemann were asked what they knew about the tradition-laden Stanford program.
“I don’t know much,” Lewis replied with a grin.
“I don’t know anything about them,” Wesemann said, before adding: “Well, I know they’re a great women’s basketball program. I’m excited to play against them.”
Of all the things the Wildcats have going for them in their second-round NCAA Tournament game with the Cardinal on Monday night – a wave of late-season momentum, oodles of experience, a homecourt advantage thanks to a scheduling quirk – their blissful ignorance may be their biggest weapon.
The No. 7-seed Wildcats aren’t intimidated by the second-seeded Cardinal, with their 12 Final Four appearances and two national titles, simply because they know no better.
“We know we have a big challenge,” explained Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie, who is keenly aware of Stanford’s resume, “but anyone left in the tournament has a good basketball team. I’ve said that before. They have overcome adversity throughout the year, they’ve handled both success and adversity, and I think our group fits in that category as well.”
Stanford (29-5) earned the right to host the first two rounds in the Lexington Region, but it wound up halfway across the country because of a scheduling conflict at Maples Pavilion.
That wasn’t such a big deal against No. 15 seed New Mexico State, which gave the Cardinal a scare for more than three quarters before finally succumbing on Saturday.
It could be a much bigger deal against the Wildcats, who relied on the energy from a raucous home crowd to turn back a spirited upset bid from Drake in their first-round matchup.
“It’s exciting to have that many fans, even if they are not for you,” Cardinal guard Brittany McPhee said. “It makes for a great atmosphere and it’s something you dream of playing in front of, a sold-out crowd. Although they’re not rooting for you, it’s a pretty cool experience.”
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was a bit more pragmatic.
“You know, the crowd can’t score and the crowd doesn’t rebound,” she said, “but it will make for a very exciting environment. We’re looking forward to it.”
Stanford post Alanna Smith had 19 points, 11 boards and a career-high six blocks against the Aggies, while Kansas State counterpart Breanna Lewis had 23 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Drake. But both took advantage of massive size disparities on Saturday, and the two will be staring at each other eye-to-eye with the Sweet 16 on the line.
“They run a triangle offense, which we are pretty familiar with,” VanDerveer said, “and we’ll have our work cut out for us. I have a lot of confidence in our post defense.”
Kansas State vs. Stanford women
- When: 5:35 p.m. Monday
- Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
- Records: KSU 23-10, Stanford 29-5
- TV: ESPN2