Women’s basketball schedule sets team up well for tourney

Senior center Breanna Lewis prepares to make a shot on the basket during the K-State game against Washburn in Bramlage Coliseum on Nov. 4, 2016. (Nathan Jones | The Collegian)

In the last two seasons, the Kansas State Wildcats have ended their seasons with losses in the second rounds of college basketball tournaments. In 2014-15, they lost to Missouri in the National Invitational Tournament.

That was in the NIT, though. For those who don’t know, nobody really likes going to the NIT.

Sure, winning the NIT beats not playing, but teams actually want to get into the NCAA Tournament. That’s where championships are made, basketball nets get cut down and coaches and players engrave their legacies on history.

Last year, the Wildcats got into the better of the two tournaments. They beat George Washington before losing to South Carolina, who then lost to Syracuse, who then didn’t lose again until the championship game against the University of Connecticut, which won its fourth straight national title.

That’s how the Wildcats grew from the 2014-15 season to the 2015-16 one.

If scheduling is any indication of what the coaching staff sees in this particular edition of the team, however, K-State fans might be in for a wild ride.

Last year, the Wildcats played a total of eight games against top-25 opponents in the regular season. This year, nine are scheduled, including that very same UConn team I mentioned earlier.

Outside of that game, however, the Wildcats schedule is back-heavy. The first third of the season includes only one game against a ranked opponent and only four games outside of Manhattan, three of which take place in the U.S. Virgin Islands on a neutral court.

K-State’s only true road game in that stretch is against the University of Nebraska-Omaha Dec. 4.

The Wildcats will finish the first third of their regular season with the game against No. 3 UConn, scheduled for Dec. 11.

Then they’ll play Princeton, which went 23-5 last season, in Manhattan before they head to Iowa to play the University of Northern Iowa Panthers, which went 22-10 in regular season play last year. That game is scheduled for Dec. 22, and it’ll be the last break the Wildcats get for a while.

Big 12 Conference play will then start quick, fast and mercilessly for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats’ first three conference games will be against current top-25 opponents. Two of those games will be on the road. Over a span of six days, the Wildcats will play at No. 2 Baylor, come home to play No. 22 West Virginia and then head back on the road to play No. 16 Oklahoma in Norman.

Those games are scheduled to take place from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4.

Welcome to 2016-17 K-State women’s basketball.

K-State plays Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum Jan. 11, then plays a few more conference games against other unranked opponents before taking on Baylor again Jan. 25.

February includes games against West Virginia, Oklahoma and two games against currently ranked No. 8 Texas, who the Wildcats will play to finish their regular season Feb. 27 in Manhattan.

Between some of the easier games in the first part of the season, a quality nonconference slate that includes UConn and Auburn and the normal Big 12 death-match, the Wildcats’ schedule will be excellent preparation for the NCAA Tournament in March.

The only remaining question is if the Wildcats can win enough games for that fact to matter.

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.