The Right Direction Mike Tufano March 5, 2015 Features, Open Mike Thursdays at The Salute Following another lack-luster season in 2013-14, K-State fired a long time coach and replaced her with TCU’s Jeff Mittie. A turbulent off-season later, the Cats were minus their best player as well, and picked 9th in the Big 12 preseason poll. I’d love to be recapping the story of how they contended for the Big 12 title, but with the way that the Cats came into the season, perhaps an 8 seed (tied for 7th in the standings) headed into the Big 12 Tournament tomorrow night is just the story that needs to be told. This year’s record of 17-12 is already 6 games ahead of last year’s 11 win finish, and the 7-11 conference record, still with plenty of room to improve, is a 2 game step forward from a year ago… all without last year’s star freshman who, though portions of the season, looked to be the next to have her name on a white banner in the south end of Bramlage. But it’s not who isn’t there anymore that made this team work. It’s who is. It’s been an odd season, for sure. The Cats finished the non-conference schedule at 10-1, in spite of a weirdly cancelled holiday tournament in Mexico, and looked to be the surprise team of the season headed into conference play. Of course, it was largely due to a very weak non-con schedule, and the Cats were exposed, losing 6 of their first 7 Big 12 games. But where most teams would have rolled over, the Cats did not. They began a winning streak with an overtime win against Oklahoma State, a road win at Texas Tech, and another win at home against Texas. Something changed in that 3 game winning streak. The team, which in the past had relied on 3 point shooting moved into a lock down defense, and it was like you could just see the team buying into the philosophy and moving forward out of the stagnation that has plagued many of the lesser teams in the past1. The Cats finished 2nd in the Big 12 in scoring defense, 3rd in blocked shots, and 1st in steals2. The defense earned sophomore Breanna Lewis a spot on the Big 12 Defensive team (and 2nd team All Big 12). It’s clear that for the team to take the next step, the offense is going to have to find more opportunities, but this is a team moving in the right direction. That sort of defense leads to points off turnovers, and the Cats have 510 to their opponent’s 370. They’re also +212 in points in the pain this season. From the outside, Kindred Wesemann has been fantastic, including back to back 20+ point games. Ashia Woods finished the season as honorable mention in the Big 12 as well, and 2nd on the team in scoring. So, while the 8 seed isn’t the ideal for K-State headed into the Big 12 Tournament, it’s clear that in Jeff Mittie’s first year, given the hand he was dealt, this is a team that is moving in the right direction. A number of come from behind wins, and a second half of Big 12 play surge demonstrate that. And while advancing too far in the tournament may be too much to ask given the possible Saturday opponent3, Friday night gives a chance to end Big 12 play on a spectacular note: the 3rd win of the season against KU. Notes: Under Patterson, when K-State was good, they were really good. When they were bad, they were really bad. We tend to forget the bad ones. [↩] 333 on the year. How’s that for a nice, fun number? [↩] Let’s face it, this is Baylor’s conference until further notice [↩] K-State fans, we salute you!