Baylor is the defending national champion fresh off an unprecedented 40-0 season. The Lady Bears return largely their entire lineup — minus one player — and should be every person’s pick in the country to repeat.
The problem for the rest of the Big 12 Conference is trying to stop the Bears.
Can it be done?
Texas Tech proved that two years ago, but the Bears have had little trouble with Big 12 competition since.
New Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Baylor has a chance to be one of the most elite teams to play women’s basketball.
Brittney Griner, Baylor’s star center and reigning player of the year, said the team is pushing itself in practice to make sure it doesn’t get complacent.
Forward Destiny Williams knows they will get every team’s best game this year, just as the Lady Bears have the last two seasons.
“I love it just because you know every game you play is going to be hard and it can only get you ready for the NCAA (tournament).”
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said she has to make sure her team doesn’t get complacent.
“I think when you have a group of seniors who did go 40-0, you don’t want them to become bored in practice,” Mulkey said. “I think what helps them is the fact they want to be an elite group.”
Tech played the Lady Bears in two of their closest matches of the regular season before losing 72-64 and 56-51.
Containing Griner is a big part of shutting down the Lady Bears, but Baylor has the supporting cast to win games even without Griner scoring buckets of points.
“This year when you look at their team and their roster, it seems they have more depth than they’ve ever had, so that’s a scary thing,” Curry said.
Tech faces Baylor on Jan. 30 in Lubbock and Feb, 12 in Waco.
Tourney moves to Dallas
For the first time in league history, the Big 12 Conference women’s basketball tournament will be played at a different site than the men’s tournament.
The men will continue to play in Kansas City, but the women will play in the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Moving the tournament received mixed reviews from coaches at Thursday’s media day, with some happy to move it to Dallas and others wondering if there will be enough of a draw.
“I thought Kansas City did a good job,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said, “but our tournament was not attended as well as the men’s tournament was. Maybe in the future if we get back together and we’re at the same time, it will be in a place where both men’s and women’s tournament is attended well. Where that will be, maybe it could be here in Dallas.”
Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly was up front about his thoughts about the move: He doesn’t like it.
The Cyclones, who consistently have some of the highest attended home games in the country, drew lots of fans to Kansas City, Fennelly said.
“I have no idea what will happen with how many fans will travel down here,” he said. “Personally speaking, I liked it the way it was, but just like at home with my wife I don’t get my choice in the way of things.”
Texas Tech coach Kristy Curry is in favor of the move, speaking highly about how having the tournament in Dallas can improve awareness of the sport on lower levels.
She said she knows there are already large women’s fan bases in the Big 12, especially those close to the Metroplex.
“Having played in the Big 10 and saw that the men’s and women’s tournaments can both be successful was a great experience,” Curry said.
Lower the rim?
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma on Monday made some bold comments about why women’s basketball is losing fans, and he has a solution: lower the rims.
Auriemma, who has always been outspoken with his views, told reporters he supports lowering the rim about 7 inches.
“What makes fans not want to watch women’s basketball is that some of the players can’t shoot and they miss layups and that forces the game to slow down,” said Auriemma, according to the Hartford Courant.
“How do you help improve that? Lower the rim. Do you think the average fan knows that the net is lower in women’s volleyball than men’s volleyball? It’s about 7 inches shorter so the women have the chance for the same kind of success at the net.”
On Thursday, some of the Big 12 coaches voiced their opinions on the subject. Most coaches thought Auriemma might not be right on this one, but TCU coach Jeff Mittie was all about trying to find ways to keep the game relevant.
“I actually like the idea,” Mittie said, “and I’ll tell you why, because we need to make some bold choices in women’s basketball and I think we need to do bold things. That is outside-the-box thinking and I think that those types of discussions have to be had because it is a different game than the men’s game.”
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale offered her thoughts about it, saying how great it is to be able to find a 10-foot hoop anywhere to get better as a player.
“I don’t think we want to put ourselves in a situation where you have to go find a women’s goal so we can get better as players,” Coale said.
Texas Tech coach Kristy Curry said she doesn’t have much of an opinion on lowering the rim.
TCU coach Jeff Mittie on travel benefits from moving from Mountain West Conference to Big 12 Conference:
“I don’t have to get frisked (by the) TSA. The advantage geographically, well time zone. I can wake up and not have to change my watch every two trips. But those advantages don’t last very long when you get into the competition here.”
Compiled by Tommy Magelssen