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Kansas State Wildcats
RECORD: 24 - 5 REGION: Mideast  SEED: 2
COACH: Deb Patterson CONFERENCE: Big 12

Road to the Final Four  ...................................................................................

Valparaiso 1st Round W 71 - 63
Minnesota 2nd Round L 80 - 61

with Mechelle Voepel

The Wildcats seem to have more detractors than any Big 12 team. Perhaps that's because their rise was so quick and they don't have a big March win the past two seasons anywhere besides at home. Of course, three years ago they were last in the league, so that's some perspective for those who want to talk about how K-State "always'' underachieves -- as if they've had top-10 talent for several years now. The Wildcats are great front-runners -- they almost never blow leads -- but they've been known to get very tight when down, though they rallied from big deficits on the road during the league season. K-State depends on offensive execution -- when it's "on,'' nobody does it better -- but there are matchups (such as quick guards) that give the Cats trouble. Nicole Ohlde needs a strong NCAA Tournament to change the perception that she's not a big-game player. Kendra Wecker has been overlooked on national honors, but she's a superstar.


Nicole Ohlde and Kendra Wecker
The Wildcats have one of the best 1-2 punches in the country. And that's why we're cheating a little bit. With nearly identical statistics, how do you decide which one to watch. Wecker, a 5-foot-11 junior forward who's simply one of the best athletes in the country, and 6-5 Ohlde, a senior who's regarded as the nation's top center, both average about 17 points and have more than 75 double-doubles between them. Wecker is the better rebounder (8.2 to Ohlde's 6.7) and has more steals, while Ohlde has superior numbers in assists and blocks. Mechelle Voepel labels them the best teammate duo in the country.

Stacey Dales-SchumanThere are few teams with as much offensive potency as the Wildcats. With that said, however, it has been the evolution of defense that has spurred Kansas State's improvement this season. The Wildcats' defense is often overlooked because they showcase exciting offense from nearly ever position on the floor.

With solid player-to-player defense that aims this season to create more steals and subsequent transition scores, the Wildcats are sitting in a better position than ever before under Deb Patterson. While she has strived to reduce team pressures this season, it's certainly showing in her players.

Still, because of all that talent, many people feel the team has underachieved. They have typically started each of the past seasons with striking success, but then tuckered out as tourney time approached. Having lost early this season with a relatively young but experienced squad, they are peaking into prime form when it counts most.

Nicole Ohlde, the one who wears the constant smile, is a leading prospect for player of the year honors. The 6-foot-5 senior center was chosen as the Big 12 Player of the Year because she's smart, athletic and can wheel at the post position as well as anyone.

Oh, and did we mention she has broke the career scoring records for K-State and the Big 12, and enters the NCAA Tournament with 2,193 points?

While Ohlde receives most of the media attention, junior power forward Kendra Wecker often takes a back seat. But Wecker has a mid-range pull-up that is drop-dead gorgeous, and her overall body strength has raised eyebrows. She ranks fifth in the K-State record books in both career scoring and rebounding.

K-State wouldn't be complete, though, if it didn't feature a strong backcourt. Junior guard Laurie Koehn has the long-range shooting capacity of a sharp-shooting assassin -- it's cock, pop and launch, and it usually goes in.

Alongside Koehn is the do-it-all Megan Mahoney. While she leads the team in assists at the point position, don't be surprised if she lights it up; she's a clear-cut proven scorer when called upon. Though Mahoney gets largely overshadowed, her leadership is the X-factor to how this team fairs.

Kansas State must continue to ascend in the Big 12 tournament and build momentum as it emerges into the field of 64. The Wildcats must have good play from the youngsters off the bench, which has been big plus for the team this season, as Deb Patterson has patiently allowed them to develop around their superiors.

Most importantly, they must have good leadership from seniors Ohlde and role-playing Amy Dutmer, and junior Mahoney. Leadership has been a question mark for this team at times, but if the Wildcats continue to compete as they have through the course of the season, good things are in store.

OklahomaL, 78-66
MissouriW, 79-58
Texas TechW, 85-73
@ TexasL, 65-63
Iowa StateW, 68-33

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