By Jeff Brown
Sure, you know that the Lady Bears won the national championship back in 2005, and that they've made the NCAA tournament nine times in head coach Kim Mulkey's 10 seasons at Baylor, including five Sweet 16s and a pair of Final Fours. But what do you know about this year's squad?
- They're young, but good. The Lady Bears' No. 2 preseason ranking (in both the AP top 25 and coaches' poll) was the highest initial ranking in program history, and Baylor was picked to win the Big 12 by the league's coaches for the second year in a row. Those are nice signs of respect for a young squad; the 14-player Baylor roster includes only two seniors and three juniors. The team's usual starting lineup features one senior, three sophomores and a freshman.
- Griner stands above her peers - for more than just dunks. Sure, Brittney Griner's four career dunks rank her second all-time in
the women's game. But the 6-foot-8 post wasn't named to the five-member preseason AP All-America team just for that. Early in her second season, she already holds the school record for triple-doubles and blocks; her points per game and field-goal percentage would also rank among BU's top 10 if she had played enough games to qualify.
- Even so, this isn't a one-woman team. This year's squad was the first Big 12 team ever to claim all three preseason honors from the league's coaches. Griner was named Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, sophomore transfer Brooklyn Pope Newcomer of the Year and Odyssey Sims Freshman of the Year. Those three as well as sophomore transfer Destiny Williams are former McDonald's All-Americans, and Griner was joined by senior Melissa Jones on the Naismith Award watch list.
- Want to see a Baylor win? Watch the Lady Bears at home. In Mulkey's first 10 seasons, the Baylor women built a 143-19 record at the Ferrell Center. Even more impressive, the Lady Bears haven't lost a regular season home game to an unranked opponent in more than 10 years; the team had won 112 straight (111 of those under Mulkey) entering this season.
- Baylor's success starts at the top. Since taking the reins at Baylor in 2000, head coach Kim Mulkey leads all Big 12 Conference coaches in wins and winning percentage (264-76, .777 as of the beginning of this season). When she led the Lady Bears to the 2005 national title, Mulkey became only the third collegiate basketball coach ever (men's or women's) to win a national championship as a player and as head coach, joining Dean Smith and Bobby Knight.