It’s been some time since Kansas State was in this position with the Oklahoma Sooners coming to town for a game.
The Wildcats enter tonight’s matchup at Bramlage Coliseum as the ranked team after cracking the Associated Press Top 25 Monday afternoon at No. 23, while the Sooners make the trip north as the unranked opponent.
In fact, K-State hasn’t defeated Oklahoma since 2004, a 74-65 win in Manhattan.
So is Oklahoma the underdog this time, so to speak?
K-State coach Deb Patterson warned against that notion on Monday.
“I can’t believe they’re not ranked,” Patterson said of OU. “They’re very good. The separation between them and Texas Tech, which is a top-10 basketball team, is… Honestly, I think they’re better, and yet they’re not ranked.”
Patterson said rankings right now are arbitrary this early in the season. Yet, K-State is ranked for the first time since the 2008-09 season after its hot start in the Big 12, which includes a pair of victories over top-10 teams Texas A&M and Texas Tech. The Wildcats, who own the top RPI in the Big 12 and nation’s second-toughest strength of schedule, enter the home matchup at 13-3 overall and 4-0 in the conference.
“It’s early in the Big 12 season and people can get overly responsive to what happens early,” she said. “There are 14 games left and you’re only as good as your next game, in my opinion. It’s all about how you played that day and that other stuff is just icing on the cake.
“It’s great for boosting the profile of your program and great for your recruiting profile, but on the inside, it’s sort of meaningless right now.”
And with a top-25 ranking, that’s Patterson’s message to her team when addressing the Sooners, who enter tonight’s game at 7 — televised on Fox Sports-Kansas City — with a 10-5 overall record and 2-2 mark in the Big 12.
“We’re playing a team that I think is top-10 caliber,” Patterson said. “And they’ve beaten Texas Tech. It’s the Big 12 and Oklahoma always presents a major challenge for anybody they line up against.”
The Big 12 is unforgiving as usual this season, especially with the new round-robin format with everyone playing everybody twice this season in the nation’s top RPI league that features four ranked teams.
And while K-State is feeling good these days, tonight’s game is just the start of another tough week ahead — beginning with Oklahoma and then finishing with a trip to No. 1 and undefeated Baylor on Saturday night.
“It’s an ominous task to think about every game in this league, to tell you the truth,” Patterson said. “You finish the Missouri game at home and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh, we have to go to Missouri later.’ You finish at Texas Tech, and then you’re like, ‘oh my gosh, we have to play them at Bramlage.’ So, it just doesn’t end.”
The Sooners are coming off a 66-63 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday. But last week, OU handed Texas Tech its first loss of the season — a 71-68 setback in Norman. Oklahoma opened the Big 12 slate with a rout of Iowa State, followed by a 75-58 blowout loss on the road to Texas A&M.
The Sooners are led by 5-foot-7 sophomore guard Aaryn Ellenberg at 17.3 points per game, while 6-1 junior guard Whitney Hand is contributing 12.5 points a game this season. Sophomore Morgan Hook is averaging 10.5 points a game.
Junior center Joanna McFarland — the youngest sister of former Wildcats Jessica McFarland — does the work inside for 8.7 points and 8.1 rebounds a game for the Sooners, who advanced to the Final Four only two years ago. The Sooners also feature 6-6 sophomore center Nicole Griffin, who scores 5.4 points and hauls down 4.5 rebounds a game.
“We have Oklahoma coming in here, angry, upset over the loss to their rival, so we’ll take their best shot,” Patterson said. “And you look at that lineup — all five players that start for them — and every single one of them can score the ball. They’re athletic and they have size.”
No. 23 KANSAS STATE (13-3, 4-0)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Brittany Chambers Jr. 5-8 16.3 6.3
G — Tasha Dickey Sr. 5-10 9.3 3.8
G — Mariah White Jr. 5-8 6.1 4.4
F — Jalana Childs Sr. 6-2 15.1 5.6
F — Branshea Brown Sr. 6-2 4.8 5.8
OKLAHOMA (10-5, 2-2)
Yr. Ht. Ppg. Rpg.
G — Aaryn Ellenberg So. 5-7 17.3 2.5
G — Morgan Hook So. 5-10 10.5 3.7
G — Whitney Hand Jr. 6-1 12.5 6.6
C — Joanna McFarland Jr. 6-3 8.7 8.1
C — Nicole Griffin So. 6-6 5.4 4.5