KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A week has passed since Kansas State women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie said the team might be undervalued in the Big 12 preseason rankings.
The Wildcats were projected to finish fifth this season, and while Mittie said the rankings might as well be arbitrary, he still believes his team has too much depth and talent to end in the middle of the conference.
Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey shared some of that sentiment at the Big 12 Tipoff in Kansas City on Tuesday.
“They are always good,” Mulkey said of Kansas State. “It’s hard for me to put any stock in preseason polls. I just don’t. It’s somebody’s opinion, and Jeff knows his team better than anybody. I don’t put much stock into the individual awards anymore. What I put a lot of stock in is winning a championship, and that’s what 10 of us are trying to do every year: win that Big 12 Championship.”
Mittie was outspoken about the strength of the Big 12 from top to bottom. Many of the coaches and players agreed that it’s the toughest conference in women’s basketball and Mittie, while he believes his team is better than fifth, doesn’t have an easy road.
“I don’t think anybody in this league can surprise anybody,” Mittie said. “The margin of error is so tight. Look at what we did late in the year last season. While we can say all the great things — (we had) five road wins — our margin of error was very slim. Our group was resilient during that stretch.”
Kansas women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider’s Jayhawks split their two games against the Wildcats last season. When asked what he thought about Mittie’s take that the Wildcats were slighted, he didn’t hesitate.
“I would agree with that,” Schneider said. “I think they have a chance to be really good. They return some terrific players. They return one of the best players in the league in Peyton Williams. I think they are going to have the opportunity to be terrific. For some coaches it takes two, three or four years to have people come up through the program, but I think they are in a fantastic situation should they be able to stay healthy this season.”
Wildcat senior Jasauen Beard gave some insight as to why she thought the team could improve upon the late success last season. While she doesn’t think the team is too different, she said it’s probably better.
“We are better at working together and know how to play with each of our teammates and have a defense that can create plays for other people,” Beard said. “We’ve come together more as a unit.”
The preseason rankings ultimately don’t matter for a team to trying to finish among the conference’s best, but it’s a solid landmark for the Wildcats to show, or surprise, opponents with their depth and talent.
“I think the one thing is, being picked fifth means you don’t want to finish fifth,” Mittie said. “You also know that being picked in the top half of this league, there are quality programs down this league. We feel like we have a veteran group that understands the grind, and it’s our job to go out and prove them wrong — that we are better than that prediction.”