SE: K-State WBB Prepared for Second Round NCAA Tournament Battle with No. 2 Seed Stanford in Bramlage

Preparation, a word thrown around in nearly every sport and by almost every team, means something a little different to the K-State women’s basketball team. 

It’s more than watching film and studying scouting reports, more than practicing hard and getting up extra shots. For the Wildcats, who host No. 2-seed Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Bramlage Coliseum on Monday at 5:30 p.m., preparation is an all-encompassing process. 

It’s gathering a certain mindset, level of focus and maturity in order to handle adversity, fatigue and numerous other factors. With this type of preparation, K-State (23-10) has been able to productively practice, watch film and, consequently, play games at a high level. 

“We really try to be mindful of the things around us and just focus to be present in the moment,” K-State senior forward Breanna Lewis said. “I feel like using that during the tournament has been something that has really helped us focus. We know that we have to focus on one thing at a time and not let the stress get to us.”

“That’s all we talk about,” added Kindred Wesemann of her team’s preparation. She then referenced the benefits of Vision Pursue, a mental skills training program the team has embraced. In Sunday’s session, the team focused on how to productively embrace, evaluate and move on from a variety of things. This included, in a way, K-State’s 13-point win over Drake in the first round on Saturday.

“That’s the biggest thing for our team,” Wesemann said. “You have to move on to the next one. I think that’s something that we’re really good at.”

K-State, a No. 7 seed, will have to be really good in its next one. Stanford enters with a 29-5 record, ranked sixth in the country and seeking its 10th-straight trip to the Sweet 16.

“They’re a very talented team. They have great balance,” Mittie said. “They have all the pieces — good point guard play, good versatility inside, good shooters — of a very good basketball team.”

Much like K-State, many of Stanford’s pieces are tall. The Cardinal have five players at 6-foot-3 or taller, compared to six for the Wildcats. It presents a clash of length and a key challenge for K-State in the rebounding battle, which Stanford has won by 7.7 per game this season. 

“We know that we have to pressure some people and make sure that we win the boards,” said Wesemann, whose team outrebounded a much smaller Drake team by 15 on Saturday. “That will be a tough task. We’re going to have to box out and rebound like we did against Drake, or better.”

This season, Stanford has collected nearly 40 percent of its points between turnovers and offensive rebounds. Along the same lines, the Cardinal have only lost the rebounding battle seven times this season, going 4-3 in those games. The Wildcats are 20-1 this season when outrebounding their opponent, 3-9 when the reverse occurs. 

“That kept me up last night. They offensive rebound the heck out of the basketball. They’re a very good rebounding team,” Mittie said, comparing Stanford’s balance and ball movement to Oklahoma and its rebounding ability to Texas. “Sometimes the challenge is you can play great defense on the first shot but you better make sure they don’t get a second and third shot. Their size plays a big factor in that because they’ve got good size and athleticism. They’ve got a lot of really good pieces.”

Erica McCall highlights Stanford’s challenge down low. The 6-foot-3 senior averages 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, including four on the offensive end a game. Stanford also brings in a pair of 6-foot guards in Brittany McPhee and Karlie Samuelson that contribute 12.8 points each. 

“Stanford, we know what a terrific team they have, we know what a balanced team they have. Our group is looking forward to that challenge,” Mittie said. “Two Power Five teams playing in two leagues that have been highly successful in the tournament already, I think, sets up for a very good match-up.”

Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer, who holds a career record of 1,009-230 that includes 79 wins in the NCAA Tournament, traditionally coaches up strong defense. This Cardinal group is no exception. 

Stanford holds teams to 34.4 percent shooting — seventh in the nation — and has allowed opponents to score 55.7 points per game. The Cardinal also block 5.7 shots per game. 

“We are excited to be preparing for another one,” Mittie said, “and we know we have a big challenge.”

The Wildcats have prepared for such challenges. Of the Wildcats’ 32 games before the NCAA Tournament, 17 of them were against teams that made the 64-team field. Another four games came against teams that made the WNIT. 

“All those things, I think, are experiences that are valuable going forward,” Mittie said of the team’s schedule. “We constantly talk about respecting the game, respecting the process of getting better. As they’ve seen success, I think that obviously fuels it, and they understand that there was a reason why they played well. They just didn’t show up last night and play well. There was a preparation that went into that. As your team sees success, you hope they even grow further in that, and that’s what our group has done.”

The group will look to continue that trend in Monday’s game, which will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and determine whether K-State advances to its first Sweet 16 since 2002. 

Having a home crowd at its back should help. 

“I think it’s pretty big,” Wesemann said playing at home, where the team is 14-3 this season. “I thought that our fans really kept us in the game whenever Drake was making their runs. I was really excited to have them there to help back us up. I hope they all come out (Monday) in the same fashion. They really do help and I think it’s going to be a great game.” 

For ticket information, click here or go through the K-State Athletics Ticket Office by calling (800) 221-CATS or by visiting its office in Bramlage Coliseum.

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