Last night I spent almost an entire days work at Bramlage Coliseum. It was my first trip to Bramlage this year, as high school sports had kept me away from any exhibition action, so I decided to make the most of it. I showed up at 4 p.m. and didn’t leave until 11:30 p.m., and I learned a lot in the almost eight-hour baptism in 2016 K-State basketball.
Both games started out as exercises in athletics that only vaguely resembled basketball. The women managed only an 11-5 lead in the first 10 minutes, and the men trailed 9-7 early after a going on a 7-2 run to start the game.
The women were quick to pull away, as Kayla Goth caught absolute fire, and true freshman Peyton Williams exploded onto the scene in her first action, becoming the first Wildcat to record a double-double in her debut since Kendra Wecker in 2001.
It’s way way early, but I’m thinking the ladies are in for a pretty good season.
Two straight games (including the exhibition against Newman) where they held teams to 33 points for a whole game. As I tweeted during the game, Chicago isn’t a state and Chicago State isn’t very good at basketball, but it was promising.
And Jeff Mittie isn’t taking it for granted. Though his team dominated the boards, he joked (maybe) in postgame that he’d have them doing rebound drills all next week. He said they fooled him last year in the non-conference, but they wouldn’t do so this year. He’s committed to improvement. And with solid youth like Goth and Williams to go with Breanna Lewis, Kindred Wesemann and the rest, the ceiling is high for this team. Especially since hyped talent like Eternati Willock and Karyla Middlebrook didn’t see the floor. Until we see the best the team has to offer against the best the schedule has to offer, the team will remain a bit of a mystery. Luckily, it won’t be long before that happens.
The men are even more of a mystery. Such a slow start. Barry Brown was the only player in double-figures in the first half. The game honestly felt in doubt until Dean Wade capped a 12-0 run with a 3-pointer to give them a 20-point lead with five minutes left.
After that, Pierson McAtee, Zach Winter, Mason Schoen, Kade Kinnamon and Brian Patrick took the court to finish the game, and held on for the 27-point win. “Holding on” for a win by 27 may sound silly, but that’s honestly how it felt. K-State pulled away so fast and so late, that even as the final minute or so ticked off the clock, the tension in Bramlage was palpable.
The two games had their similarities. Youth stepped up in both, with Goth and Williams for the women and Brown and Xavier Sneed for the men. They both started slow, but for the women a slow start was a six-point lead. For the men, it was losing by two.
Regardless of the quality of opponent, it’s clear which team is more prepared for the season right now.
Mittie has the women clicking so well that even when they aren’t clicking, they’re leading by three scores. Does that mean they’re gonna finish much higher than their projected fifth place in the conference? Probably not. The ladies have a pretty tough non conference and start conference play against three teams ranked in the preseason top 25. It won’t be easy, but the team seems to have a much better sense of itself at this point than the men. Seeing them back-to-back really showed the starkness of the contrast.
The men can most certainly still have a good season. They did win by 27 after all, and the defense looked solid throughout, but shooting 32 percent from the field in the first half isn’t great. They did improve to almost 63 percent in the second half (44 percent for the game) implying that they may have some idea how to finish games, but that first half was hard to recover from, speaking purely from a cosmetic standpoint.
Yes, the men might be fine, but just as most suspected coming into the year, all the excitement for basketball in Manhattan can and should be placed firmly on the shoulders of Jeff Mittie and the ladies, until proven otherwise.