Is The K-State Women’s Basketball Team A Final Four Contender?

Is The K-State Women’s Basketball Team A Final Four Contender?

It has been quite a week for K-State basketball fans. Both the men’s and women’s teams earned victories over top 10 opponents. The women beat number 10 Texas 61 to 58 on Saturday, and the men beat number nine Baylor 68 to 64 in overtime Tuesday night. What a week!

My friend and podcast partner Reggie Blackwell suggested that I should write a column giving the K-State women’s basketball team some love. I haven’t done that often, so I thought it was a great idea. The Lady Wildcats just moved up to number seven in the Associated Press women’s basketball poll, and star Ayoka Lee was just named national player of the week, so it is a great time to talk about some women’s basketball!

The K-State women have 17 wins and only one loss on the season. The one loss was to the Iowa Hawkeyes, the number two team in the country. The Wildcats have played Iowa twice this season, beating them once on November 16th, 65 to 58, and losing to them on November 26th in a preseason tournament in Florida by the score of 77-70.

It is not just that K-State is winning. They are winning big, by an average score of 76 to 52. That’s right, they are beating teams by 24 points on average. Their only single-digit victories have come against number two Iowa on November 16th, Number 23 North Carolina (63 to 56 on November 25th), and number 10 Texas (61 to 58 on January 13th). The other 14 wins have not been close.

Ayoka Lee has been her sensational self, averaging 19.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, but her supporting cast is more experienced and has been playing very well. Guards Brylee Glenn, Jaelyn Glenn, and Serena Sundell have all played with each other since high school AAU ball in 2019, so they are comfortable playing together, and it shows. Sundell is averaging 10.6 points per game, Jaelyn Glenn is averaging 7.2, and Brylee Glenn 5.7 points per game. Senior guard Gabby Gregory, who joined Ayoka Lee on a couple of preseason player-of-the-year watch lists, has been solid, averaging 10.6 points and four rebounds per game. Redshirt freshman Zyanna Walker and redshirt sophomore Gisela Sanchez have also been solid contributors.

K-State is an experienced team led by upperclass(wo)men, so it is not a real shock that they are doing well. I just didn’t expect them to be “top 10” good this year. Last year, star Ayoka Lee had to sit out the season after knee surgery. It was awful for Lee, but it may have been a blessing in disguise for the success of this year’s team. The core group had to step up their play last season without Lee, and they continued to grow and get better together as a group. Adding Lee back into the mix this year has been seamless, and Lee has not missed a beat. She looks to be the same great player she has always been.

A couple of years ago, K-State’s offense was reliant upon feeding the ball inside to Lee, who posted up on the low block every possession. If teams took her out of the game by double or triple-teaming her, K-State didn’t have anyone to pick up the slack. That is not the case this season. In the games I have seen, K-State still feeds Lee down low, but if they double-team her, others on the team are making shots consistently, especially three-pointers. K-State has multiple players that opponents have to try to shut down, making K-State very difficult to beat.

It all begs the question: is this team good enough to make the Final Four and possibly win a national championship? Texas, Baylor, and Iowa State (twice) all remain on the schedule, and all three are ranked in the top 25. West Virginia is also upcoming and is receiving votes in the poll. If K-State runs the table in the Big 12, look out. They are contenders to win the whole thing. Beating number two Iowa gives me confidence they can get it done. Number one South Carolina is still the heavy favorite to win the national championship, as they are the unanimous number one team in the country right now, but nobody should be sleeping on K-State. K-State may earn a one-seed in the NCAA tournament. If that’s the case, we may see another Final Four banner raised in Bramlage Coliseum at the end of the season.

Do yourself a favor and watch the K-State women! They have an opportunity to make history.

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