For years, being a Baylor graduate and a Tennessee Lady Vols basketball fan presented no conflict. The Baylor Lady Bears were decent, but nobody really expected much from them.
Then Kim Mulkey came along.
When Baylor hired Coach Mulkey in the 2000-2001 season, the team’s only post-season run was in the WNIT in 1998. Now the Lady Bears have three Big 12 titles, a national championship and, probably, an upcoming third trip to the Final Four. And I would not be all that surprised if the championship game is Tennessee vs. Baylor and I will have to watch it by myself so I can cheer for both sides at once.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Getting to the last rounds of the bracket means overcoming some pretty tough competition along the way. None of the No. 1 seeds — UConn, Stanford, Baylor and Tennessee — are going gentle into that good locker room. Their coaches, all finalists for the Naismith Award, won’t let them.
UConn is going for its third straight national title, but this year, anyone could win. In fact, the 1 seeds form the perfect storm. In the regular season, Stanford beat UConn, which beat Baylor, which beat Tennessee, which beat Stanford.
Although anything can happen, I don’t know any WBB fan not hoping to see the Lady Vols play the Huskies in the Final Four. The two teams haven’t played since 2007, when Pat Summitt ended their annual match-up. Neither coach will talk about the prospect of playing each other in Indy, but I have a feeling that it keeps both up at night.
In reading about what players and teams to watch during the playoffs, which start Saturday on ESPN, I came across a wonderful story that tells how the women’s game started — and why our support matters.
My Twitter buddy @hoopfeed, who runs a fabulous WBB website at HoopFeed.com, linked to this video from Smith College, her alma mater. The New Woman: A New Game is about Senda Berenson, the teacher who decided to add basketball to her women’s P.E. program — in 1892. It lasts a little over eight minutes — and I guarantee you will be smiling by the end.
How cool is that? I think that’s a great way to unify us as fans — before we get into the games and want to strangle each other.
Are you ready for some basketball? Who do we need to look for in your region? Do you think UConn will win it all again? Or is another team ready to take home the trophy?