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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Joy, excitement and relief: K-State’s selection show watch party and journey ahead 


Across the screen flashed the No. 4 vs. 13 matchup in the Albany 2 region — then up popped “4 Kansas State.” The room, filled with Wildcat players, coaches and supporters, erupted in a roar of pure joy. K-State had done it: a No. 4 seed and the host of two rounds of March Madness play.

Grace Parks

“I was so nervous sitting up there, because we knew we were right there,” guard Gabby Gregory said. “We didn’t know: four or five, four or five. Every time it popped up — oh my gosh my heart was beating.”

The K-State women’s basketball season was a year of grand success, all culminating in a watch party at the Shamrock Zone in Bramlage Coliseum.

“You don’t get moments like this very often,” center Ayoka Lee said.

The Wildcats watched on the big screen as they were slotted as a No. 4 seed, rather than a No. 5. Ever since the Big 12 tournament, this was the one thing on most Wildcats fans’ minds. The moment didn’t disappoint.

“That was super exciting, seeing our name pop up,” guard Serena Sundell said. “It’s exhilarating and we’ve been waiting for it for [the] past week now. So to finally get some clarity and excitement going into the tournament, we feel good.”

While the break brought its own level of anxiety, the 11-day rest between games was especially helpful for the Wildcats.

“In terms of us it was critical … Lee hasn’t had a lot of practice time,” head coach Jeff Mittie said. “So she’s actually strung together four practices this week. It’s the first four straight days that she’s practiced since the injury.”

Head coach Jeff Mittie answers questions at the Selection Sunday watch party. (Grace Parks)

While K-State kept busy, sports analysts and speculators kept anticipation high, predicting how the bracket would land.

Some bracketologists had the Wildcats at No. 4, while others, like ESPN’s Charlie Creme, had K-State as a No. 5 seed.

“We knew we were gonna be a four or five [seed] just based on that stuff,” Sundell said. “Like coach said, we were hoping Charlie Creme was wrong.”

At 6 a.m. on Sunday, Mittie made his annual evaluation chart, finding where he thought his squad would land. After his evaluation, Mittie said he felt good about the team’s chances of landing the illustrious home court seeding.

While Mittie felt confident, the decision vindicated the team’s beliefs.

“We felt that we deserved it,” Gregory said. “You know, we had a little bit of rough patches during the season, but I think that our resume ended up being good enough for a four seed.”

Guard Gabby Gregory holds Gap Goat contently following the news of K-State landing the four seed. (Grace Parks)

Mittie said the moment goes beyond the 15 girls sporting purple and white uniforms.

“I think our team has really had a great relationship with the community and the fans, so, excited to reward our fans too,” Mittie said. “It’s not just — yes, as players and coaches we’re excited to be here — but we’re excited our fans got rewarded as well.”

The advantage fans brought K-State is recognized by the team and opponents alike. Hosting the NCAA tournament, the boost may be even greater. 

“I’ve said it before, I think that we have one of the best home court advantages in the country,” Gregory said. “I’m hoping that we can sell Bramlage out. Obviously, we haven’t done that yet this season for the women’s team, but I think this is the time to do it.”

K-State will begin its hosting duties Friday at 3:30 p.m. when it faces No. 13 seed Portland, a team they had little information on prior to Sunday.

“We’ll leave here, we’ll go right into meetings, we’ll stay late, we’ll start the coffee, we’ll start all that stuff and I just love it, I love every bit of it,” Mittie said Sunday night.

The players didn’t know much about Portland Sunday night, but trusted their coaches would get them ready for the WCC champs.

“We’ll get into practice on Tuesday and then we’ll know a bunch about the team that we’re gonna play,” Gregory said.

Alongside Portland, the Albany 2 region features familiar opponents. The Wildcats could face old foes in a possible Sweet 16 run against No. 1 Iowa or Big 12 rival No. 8 West Virginia, if either makes it as well as K-State.

“That’s an unusual bracket because we played West Virginia twice, we played Iowa twice,” Mittie said. “I think it’s a strong bracket. You got LSU in that as well as the three, so it looks pretty strong.”

Even with defending champions as the No. 3 seed, the heavy hitter remains Caitlian Clark and the Hawkeyes — a team which lost twice to K-State in the past two years.

“When Iowa popped up we were hopeful that we’d be in that region, just get another shot at them,” Sundell said. “We match up well against them so that was exciting.”

To face Iowa, Sundell knows they can’t look too far ahead.

“We just got to go every game, one game at a time,” Sundell said. “You’re not gonna get to match up with them if you don’t take care of your business,” 

K-State’s whole season brought them to this moment. Everything always comes down to March in college basketball, and the Wildcats begin the season of dancing and miracles where it all began: in Manhattan.

“This is what we practice for in October and do conditioning for in the summer, for this time of the year,” Sundell said. “Just to have it all come together right now is fun. This is exactly where we want to be.”

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About the Contributor
Luke Lazarczyk
Luke Lazarczyk, sports writer
Sports editor for 2023-24. Previously sports editor for 2022-23 and writer for 2021-22.
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