by Kaylyn Thornal, Fanzooloo Founder and Baylor Alumni
The Baylor Bears, in every sport, were terrible when I was at Baylor. I maybe went to 2 football games my entire 4 years there – we were that bad. I would never in my life have attended a women’s basketball game, but mostly because I didn’t know they even existed. Baylor had great coaches (Grant Teaff), great competitors (Michael Johnson), great players (Mike Singletary) but not enough cash for any team, men or women, to compete and win against the mightier Texas state schools – Texas University, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech. Baylor was the little private, no-dancing, straight laced, Baptist school, until it inadvertently started living in the shadows of some dark days.
(Updated 4.4.12: NCAA TOURNAMENT 2012: Baylor is Perfect 40-0)
Waco, Texas was labeled as the home of the infamous Branch Dividian/David Koresh torch fest (even though it was actually 40 miles outside of Waco), and in 2003, Patrick Donehey a player for the Baylor men’s basketball team, was murdered by former teammate Carlton Dotson. These are things that most Baylor fans do not want to talk about, yet they are important to recount in order emphasize the following: it was the women, not the men, that saved Baylor University and it’s reputation.
In 2000, Baylor acquired Kim Mulkey, then an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech, as head coach of the Baylor women’s basketball team. Mulkey took over a Baylor program that had finished the 1999–2000 season 7–20.
In 2005, the Baylor women’s basketball team won the NCAA Championship, and suddenly everything changed. That year, Baylor would defeat Michigan State 84–62 in the NCAA Tournament and take home the National Championship. It was the first championship in the history of the Baylor University’s 160 year old school. That title, seemed to not only lift Baylor out of the dark past, but put it on the map in a good way. The city, desperate for a glimmer of positivity, found it finally in the Baylor women’s basketball team. And the town rallied around the team with a city-wide celebratory parade.
A few days later, Mulkey raised $3 million in one day for Baylor sports and ticket sales soared for the women’s team. They have regular sell-outs. Since Mulkey took over at the helm Baylor has consistently been in the run for the national title. In fact, she put together twelve consecutive 20-win seasons and Baylor is quickly becoming the new Tennessee (deep respect for Pat Summit and that program, but it’s true). Baylor will get first look now for recruits with Brittney Griner firmly planted for her senior year at post, and Odyssey Sims sure to return even stronger next year.
That 2005 win spirited the sports program overall at Baylor and they are set to have their best year ever in 2012, claiming their very first Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III celebrating the Baylor men’s basketball team reaching the Elite Eight this year (losing in the Elite Eight last year), and potentially reaching history if the Baylor women go 40-0.
After Mulkey’s 2005 win it was perhaps her personal life that kept her from consecutive Final Fours. Oddly, her publicized divorce in 2006, was due to the same woman who cheated with my boyfriend in the 9th grade. (You know who you are home-wrecker and karma’s a b****)
But Mulkey is a fighter, a survivor, and possibly the best overall leader in basketball, having personally won championships as a player, an assistant coach and head coach. Even with Bells Palsey she is still raising hell on sidelines.
There is only one thing standing between Baylor’s perfect season of 40-0, and making history (no team has gone 40-0 in men or women’s basketball) and that’s a very good, competitive and out-for-revenge Notre Dame team.
Notre Dame lost last year to the Texas A&M Aggies (who knocked Baylor out as well) in the NCAA Finals, giving up a late lead that looked to be a sure win. That loss had to take all year to get over, and they are playing with vengeance and I guarantee do not want a repeat performance.
The top three things Baylor will have to overcome in order to win Tuesday night’s NCAA Final Game are:
1. Skyler Diggins. Diggins is fast as lightening, makes quick decisions and plays with a passion to win from start to finish. If ND plays Brittney like Stanford did, they will lose. They don’t have the height for that kind of match-up. They will have to beat them on the corners, and Diggins is where it begins and ends.
2. Britney Mallory making 3s. Most people probably tuned in to see the match up between Stanford’s senior Nneka Ogwumike vs. Baylor center Brittney Griner. The Ogwamike sisters pretty much muted any attack by Griner and held her to only 13 points, but in doing so, Stanford left the perimeters open and it was the guards who once again stepped up for Baylor. But Griner still made it impossible to drive inside on her. And that’s where ND is going to need a repeat performance by Britney Mallory hitting 3’s from the corners.
3. Altitude. Perhaps more than anything Baylor was slowed down by the altitude and just looked tired and sluggish most of the game. This team is fast, and usually quick to the boards, and tonight they were just slooooow. If they have the same sluggishness Tuesday, ND could take advantage and try to build a quick lead that could be hard to overcome a this altitude.
Eh, who am I kidding? Regardless of sluggishness, altitude, triple-teaming Griner, shooting poorly from the floor, Baylor has too many weapons to lose this match-up. Even if ND does neutralize Griner like Stanford was capable of yesterday, Baylor still has so many weapons on defense, and off the bench (Terran Condrey had 13 points vs Stanford) and they walk away with another NCAA Championship title Tuesday night.
Look for Griner to rebound with an awesome performance and for the Baylor Bears to make history going 40-0. And with that win, the sun will shine a little brighter on Waco, Tx.
For information to do at the NCAA FINALS in Denver.