The Kansas State women’s basketball team has been trending up since Jeff Mittie was hired as coach two years ago, and that is unlikely to change this season.
This figures to be the Wildcats’ best roster in recent memory.
Center Breanna Lewis and guard Kindred Weseman, the team’s top two scorers last season, are both back as seniors and many expect them to be among the Big 12’s best players. But this is more than a two-person team. Lewis and Weseman will have a solid supporting cast, led by Karyla Middlebrook, Kayla Goth, Lanie Page and Kaylee Page.
That nucleus led K-State to a 19-13 record last season, which featured a victory in the NCAA Tournament. It was a such a good season that it earned Mittie a contract extension. But more is expected out of this group, perhaps even a run to the Sweet 16.
The Wildcats were picked fifth in the preseason Big 12 poll, and season-ticket sales are up. All eyes will be on K-State when it hosts powerhouse Connecticut in a Dec. 11 nonconference game. There is legitimate hope it will be a competitive game.
It’s all a matter of how quickly the freshman class can jell with the veteran leaders.
“This is the best mixture of talent and experience we’ve had, but that can be a challenge at times,” Mittie said. “Blending those age groups together can be difficult. This group of seniors has got to take that mentor role of helping the young ones, and the young ones have to come in and compete without being intimidated and realizing these are the guys who have done it.”
If that happens, this could be a special season for Mittie’s team.
Lewis averaged 16.7 points and 7.5 rebounds last year. She is a preseason all-conference pick this year. If she can improve her free-throw shooting and find open teammates with kickout passes in the paint, she could be one of the nation’s best players as a senior.
“That’s not too high of a bar,” Mittie said. “She was one of the Big 12’s best players last season.”
Weseman averaged 12.1 points and 2.5 rebounds and should push the issue on the perimeter for K-State’s offense.
She forms a formidable one-two punch alongside Lewis. With help from their young teammates, they should take the Wildcats to a 20-win season and a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett