Defending national champion Baylor, which easily proved itself the best team (again) in the Big 12 Conference, now gets the chance to go nationwide - again.
The Lady Bears (32-1) were named the overall No. 1 seed in the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Tournament bracket that was announced Monday night. Last season, Baylor was an unprecedented 40-0 in winning the school's second national championship and the second consecutive national title for the Big 12.
Baylor, who earned the Conference's automatic bid, was one of six Big 12 schools to make the field. Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and West Virginia earned at-large bids. Kansas and West Virginia were two of the last four teams to be an at-large selection.
The Lady Bears host the opening weekend and will start play against Prairie View at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in Waco. The winner of that game will take on the winner of No. 8 seed Florida State and No. 9 seed Princeton.
Baylor is trying to become the fourth different school to win consecutive national championships, joining Southern California, UConn, and Tennessee. Mulkey grew up in Louisiana.
"Nothing's different this year," said Brittney Griner, who will likely be named national player of the year for the second consecutive season. "Our goal is to win the six games and win the national championship. Just winning is motivation enough. Everybody on this team, we're competitors and we just to go out and do what we need to do to get this win."
Baylor is the No. 1 seed in the Oklahoma City Region. Oklahoma was also placed in that region. The No. 6 seed Sooners will face No. 11 seed Central Michigan at 10:10 a.m. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. If the Sooners win, they could face No. 3 seed UCLA, which plays No. 14 seed Stetson. The Bruins defeated OU, 86-80, in mid-November.
Kansas and Oklahoma State were placed in the Norfolk Region where Notre Dame is the No. 1 seed.
Kansas, which last year was one of the last at-large teams to make the bracket, was awarded a No. 12 seed. The Jayhawks will face former Big 12 member Colorado on the Buffs' home court at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Boulder, Colo.
Oklahoma State is the No. 7 seed and will take on No. 10 seed DePaul at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Durham, N.C.
West Virginia, in its first season in the Big 12, earned an at-large bid and is the No. 11 seed in the Bridgeport Region. The Mountaineers will take on No. 6 seed Delaware, which is led by Elena Delle Donne, the nation's second-leading scorer at 25.3 points per game. That game will be at 11:15 a.m. Sunday in Newark, Del.
Iowa State and Texas Tech were each placed in the Spokane (Wash.) Regional, where Stanford is the top seed.
The Cyclones are a No. 5 seed and will open against Gonzaga, a No. 12 seed, at 3:15 Saturday. Gonzaga will be playing on its homecourt. The winner of that game goes against the winner of No. 4 seed Georgia and No. 13 Montana.
Texas Tech is hosting the opening record and the Lady Raiders are a No. 7 seed. They'll open play against No. 10 seed South Florida, which will be playing in its second NCAA Tournament and first since 2006. That game is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. If Texas Tech wins its first-round game, it will face the winner of No. 2 seed Cal and No. 15 seed Fresno State.
Earlier Monday, the Lady Bears finished No. 1 in The Associated Press women's basketball poll for the second straight year. Baylor was No. 1 for the final 11 weeks of the season and received all 40 first-place votes for the fourth straight week.
"I am very fortunate to be able to coach this group of players," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "They strive to be the best they can be and have worked hard to get to and stay at the top of their game. The No. 1 ranking is another example that their efforts have paid off."
Who they're playing
A look at the opponents for Big 12 Conference teams in the women's NCAA Tournament. (All times CDT and approximate):
Oklahoma City Region
No. 1 Baylor (32-1) vs. No. 16 Prairie View (17-14)
6:40 p.m. Sunday, Waco, ESPN2|
The scoop on Prairie View
NCAA bid: Automatic from Southwestern Athletic Conference.
NCAA history: 0-4, 5th appearance, last in 2012.
Coach: Toyelle Wilson.
Top players: Jeanette Jackson, 5-7 Soph. G; Kiara Etienne, 5-10 Sr. G.; Latia Williams, 5-10 Sr. G/F; JaQuandria Williams, 5-8 Sr. G/F.
Season highlights: The Panthers' best non-conference win came in late November when they defeated Memphis. Prairie View was able to win the SWAC's automatic bid when it knocked off top-seeded Texas Southern in the conference tournament semifinals.
You need to know: Prairie View has trouble scoring and shooting which means trouble in facing Baylor's relentless defense. The Panthers average less than 57 points a game and shoot 40 percent from the field. ... Prairie View's last three NCAA Tournament losses have come in the first round against Connecticut, Baylor and Oklahoma. ... The Panthers have won the SWAC's automatic bid three consecutive years. ... SWAC player of the year Latia Williams is playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year.
No. 6 Oklahoma (22-10) vs. No. 11 Central Michigan (21-11)
10:10 a.m. Saturday, Columbus, Ohio, ESPN2
The scoop on Central Michigan
NCAA bid: Automatic from Mid-American Conference.
NCAA history: 0-2, 3rd appearance, last in 1984.
Coach: Sue Guevara.
Top players: Crystal Bradford, 6-0 Soph. G; Jessica Schroll, 5-11 Sr. F; Brandie Baker, 6-0 Sr. G; Niki DiGuillo, 5-8 Jr. G.
Season highlights: Central Michigan started the season 2-4 with losses to NCAA Tournament teams Green Bay, Notre Dame and Purdue. One of the Chippewas' non-conference victories was a 73-65 victory over Texas in the Maggie Dixon Surf 'N Slam Classic.
You need to know: As the No. 4 seed in the MAC Tournament, the Chippewas won three straight games to claim the MAC title, including a 66-61 victory over No. 1 seed Toledo in the semifinals. ... Central Michigan likes to play at a fast pace and is 14th in the nation in scoring at 74 points a game. ... The Chippewas have five players who have made 30 or more 3-pointers. ... Central Michigan was 11-0 this season when allowing 60 or fewer points.
No. 5 Iowa State (23-8) vs. No. 12 Gonzaga (27-5)
3:15 p.m. Saturday, Spokane, Wash., ESPN2
The scoop on Gonzaga
NCAA bid: Automatic from West Coast Conference.
NCAA history: 8-5, 6th appearance, last in 2012.
Coach: Kelly Graves.
Top players: Taelor Karr, 5-8 Sr. G; Haiden Palmer, 5-8 Jr. G; Shelby Cheslek, 6-5 Fr. C; Sunny Greinacher, 6-4 Soph. F.
Season highlights: Two of the Zags' non-conference losses came against NCAA Tournament teams Louisville and Stanford. The only loss in WCC play came at St. Mary's. Gonzaga has a 15-game winning streak.
You need to know: Gonzaga enters the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight season. ... The Zags won their ninth-straight West Coast Conference regular-season title. Senior guard Taelor Karr was named the WCC Player of the Year, junior guard Jazmine Redmon was named the WCC Defender of the Year and Kelly Graves was voted Coach of the Year. ... Taelor Karr played her first two seasons at Kansas State before transferring. ... For the second consecutive year, if Gonzaga wins its first two games, it will play the regional on its home town.
No. 7 Texas Tech (21-10) vs. No. 10 South Florida (21-10)
5:30 p.m., Saturday, Lubbock, Texas, ESPN2
The scoop on South Florida
NCAA bid: At large from Big East Conference.
NCAA history: 0-1 2nd appearance, last in 2006.
Coach: Jose Fernandez.
Top players: Andrell Smith, 5-8 Sr. G; Andrea Smith, 5-8 Sr. G; Inga Orekhova, 6-2 Jr. G; Alisia Jenkins, 6-1 Fr. F.
Season highlights: South Florida stated its case for a bid in Big East play. The Bulls beat two ranked teams - at Louisville, at home against Syracuse - in consecutive games. They lost at Notre Dame, a No. 1 seed in this field, 75-71 in overtime in early January and played the Fighting Irish tough in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals, losing 75-66.
You need to know: South Florida won the WNIT in 2009. ... South Florida ranks 42nd in the country in rebounding, out-boarding opponents by 5.6 per game. ... The Bulls have good depth up front and are adept at blocking shots but their offense is perimeter oriented and can be inconsistent. ... The Smith sisters - Andrell and Andrea - combine to average 30 points per game.
No. 12 Kansas (18-13) vs. No. 5 Colorado (25-6)
5:30 p.m., Saturday, Boulder, Colo., ESPN2
The scoop on Colorado
NCAA bid: At large from Pac-12 Conference.
NCAA history: 17-12, 13th appearance, last in 2004.
Coach: Linda Lappe.
Top players: Chucky Jeffery, 5-10 Sr. G; Rachel Hargis, 6-4 Jr. C; Arielle Roberson, 6-1 Fr. F; Jen Reese, 6-1 Soph. F.
Season highlights: Colorado won its first 11 games. Stanford and California are the only teams to beat the Buffaloes twice during the regular season. Stanford is a No. 1 seed and Cal is a No. 2 seed.
You need to know: The Buffs are 12-3 in NCAA Tournament games played in Boulder. ... Linda Lappe will become one of just eight coaches to play and coach in the NCAA Tournament for the same team. This will be Lappe's first NCAA appearance as a coach. ... Colorado is 10th in the nation in rebounding margin with a 9.2 average edge per game. ... The Buffs are 30th in scoring defense, allowing 53.7 per game. ... Arielle Roberson is the younger sister of Andre, a junior on the Colorado men's team.
No. 7 Oklahoma State (21-10) vs. No. 10 DePaul (21-11)
1:30 p.m. Sunday, Durham, N.C., ESPN2
The scoop on DePaul
NCAA bid: At large from Big East Conference.
NCAA history: 10-17, 18th appearance, last in 2012.
Coach: Doug Bruno.
Top players: Anna Martin, 5-9 Sr. G; Brittany Hrynko, 5-8 Soph. G; Jasmine Penny, 6-1 Jr. F; Chanise Jenkins, 5-5 Fr. G.
Season highlights: DePaul has a non-conference win over Princeton (an NCAA Tournament team) and also defeated Louisville and South Florida, both NCAA teams, in Big East play.
You need to know: DePaul lost in the second round last season. In 2011, the Blue Demons reached the Sweet 16. In 2008 through 2010, they lost in the first round. ... Anna Martin has bounced back after being sidelined during the season by a knee injury. ... Megan Rogowski, a top reserve, broke her hand in January and has been playing despite the injury. ... DePaul is 24th in the nation in scoring, averaging 71.4 points per game. ... The Blue Demons have made the NCAA Tournament 11 consecutive seasons.
No. 11 West Virginia (17-13) vs. No. 6 Delaware (30-3)
11:15 a.m. Sunday, Newark, Del., ESPN2
The scoop on Delaware
NCAA bid: Automatic from Colonial Athletic Association.
NCAA history: 1-3, 4th appearance, last in 2012.
Coach: Tina Martin.
Top players: Elena Delle Donne, 6-5 Sr. F; Lauren Carra, 5-9 Sr. G; Kayla Miller, 5-8 Sr. G; Danielle Parker, 6-2 Sr. F.
Season highlights: Delaware has non-conference victories over Princeton and St. John's; both are NCAA Tournament teams. One of the team's non-conference losses was a 16-point defeat to Maryland, another team in the bracket.
You need to know: This is the second consecutive year Delaware will face a Big 12 team in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Hens lost to Kansas in the second round last season. ... Elena Delle Donne averages 25.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and connects on 49.0 percent of 3-point attempts. She's the nation's second-leading scorer. ... The Blue Hens rank seventh in the nation with just 12.2 turnovers per game. ... Delaware will be playing on its home court on the opening weekend.