By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
The last time Baylor played in the American Airlines Center, the result was bitter. The Lady Bears, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, lost to No. 2 seed and then-Big12 rival Texas A&M in the Dallas Regional final, denying Baylor a trip to the Final Four.
Unless you haven't been paying attention, don't expect history to repeat. Since that loss, Baylor has fashioned a 69-1 record, winning the national championship last season with a 40-0 record and this season rolling to a 29-1 overall record and the No. 1 national ranking.
The Lady Bears have gone undefeated in the Big 12 the last two seasons and have won 40 consecutive regular-season games over league foes by the average margin of nearly 25 points. Senior Brittney Griner, last year's national player of the year, has become the Big 12's career scoring leader, the top shot blocker in NCAA history and scored a career-high and Big 12 single-game record 50 in her last outing.
Baylor's 90-68 victory over Kansas State in the season finale Monday was played in the Ferrell Center before a sellout crowd of 10,627. That tied the school's attendance record.
"I hope all these people will be in Dallas because we're probably going to play either (Kansas State) or Texas," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said after the game. "So it'll be another outstanding game. We're going to need them to travel. We're the closest Big 12 school to Dallas, and I challenge our fans, find a way to get over there and let's represent Baylor the way we should."
Ticket sales have been brisk. This will be the first women's basketball championship that will be staged in a different city than the men's championship. The schools and the conference office agreed to move the event from Kansas City to Dallas (and next year to Oklahoma City) for the long term benefit of women's basketball in the Big 12 and nationally.
Baylor appears on track to win its second consecutive national championship and the third in a row from the Big 12. Based on the season results, the other nine teams are all on equal footing – particularly considering the unpredictability of the post-season.
"I've been impressed with how balanced the Big 12 is," said West Virginia coach Mike Carey, whose team went 9-9 in its first season in the Conference. "Baylor, obviously … I don't know if anyone can beat 'em. But two through ten, I think those nine teams are all capable of making a run."
No. 2 seed Iowa State and No. 3 seed Oklahoma are in the bottom half of the bracket while Baylor is in the top half. This is the third time the women's championship has been in Dallas and the Sooners have won the title twice (2004 and 2006). The Cyclones will be trying to reach the championship game for the first time since 2007.
Team by Team Previews:
No. 1 Baylor
Next at American Airlines Center: The Lady Bears will play the winner of the first-round game between No. 8 seed Kansas State and No. 9 seed Texas at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Thus far: 29-1 overall, 18-0 in Big 12.
Coach: Kim Mulkey.
Big 12 Championship history: 23-12; championships in 2012, 2011, 2009, 2005.
Probable starters: Odyssey Sims, 5-8 Jr. G; Kimetria Hayden, 6-0 Sr. G; Jordan Madden, 6-0 Sr. G; Brooklyn Pope, 6-1 Sr. F; Brittney Griner, 6-8 Sr. C.
You need to know: In its last game, Baylor set a school record by shooting 69 percent from the field. That tied for the second-best accuracy in Big 12 history. … The Lady Bears are the first Big 12 team with consecutive undefeated seasons and will try to be the first Big 12 school to win three consecutive post-season championships. … Brittney Griner became the Big 12's career scoring leader and the NCAA's career leader in blocked shots this season. She needs 271 points to become the leading scorer in NCAA history.
No. 2 Iowa State
Next at American Airlines Center: The Cyclones will play the winner of the first-round game between No. 7 seed Kansas and No. 10 seed TCU at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Thus far: 21-7 overall, 12-6 in Big 12.
Coach: Bill Fennelly.
Big 12 Championship history: 21-7; championships in 2001, 2000.
Probable starters: Nikki Moody, 5-8 Soph. G; Hallie Christofferson, 6-3 Jr. F; Brynn Williamson, 5-11 Soph. G/F; Chelsea Poppens, 6-2 Sr. F; Anna Prins, 6-7 Sr. C.
You need to know: This is Iowa State's highest seed since 2010. … The Cyclones' 12 conference victories are the second-most in school history and the most since winning 12 in 2005. … Nikki Moody is third in the nation with 7.4 assists per game. … Chelsea Poppens is the 14th women's player in Big 12 history with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. … Anna Prins has battled injuries during her career but this season has averaged a career high 26 minutes per game.
No. 3 Oklahoma
Next at American Airlines Center: The Sooners will face No. 6 seed West Virginia at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Thus far: 21-9 overall, 11-7 in Big 12.
Coach: Sherri Coale.
Big 12 Championship history: 22-12; championships in 2007, 2006, 2004, 2002.
Probable starters: Morgan Hook, 5-10 Jr. G; Aaryn Ellenberg, 5-7 Jr. G; Sharane Campbell, 5-10 Soph. G; Joanna McFarland, 6-3 Sr. F; Nicole Griffin, 6-6 Jr. C.
You need to know: Oklahoma has won at least 20 games in eight consecutive seasons. … The Sooners have had just eight scholarship players since early December. … The Sooners lost four of their last seven. … The Sooners split the regular season series with West Virginia, winning at home and losing in Morgantown. … Aaryn Ellenberg leads the Big 12 in 3-pointers with 96, which is an Oklahoma single-season record. With two more 3-pointers, the junior will become Oklahoma's career leader. … Since returning to the starting lineup in the last 20 games, Joanna McFarland has averaged 10.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
No. 4 Texas Tech
Next at American Airlines Center: The Lady Raiders will face No. 5 seed Oklahoma State at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Thus far: 21-9 overall, 11-7 in Big 12.
Coach: Kristy Curry.
Big 12 Championship history: 15-14; championships in 1999, 1998.
Probable starters: Monique Smalls, 5-6 Sr. G; Chynna Brown, 5-8 Sr. G; Christine Hyde, 5-10 Sr. G; Casey Morris, 5-9 Sr. G; Kelsi Baker, 6-0 Jr. F.
You need to know: The 11 victories in conference play are the most during coach Kristy Curry's seven seasons in Lubbock. … The Lady Raiders lead the Big 12 in turnover margin and are second in steals. … Texas Tech tallied five sweeps of Big 12 Conference opponents this season
(Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas, TCU, West Virginia) - the most since 1998. … Monique Smalls has been a starter since her freshman season and has started in 131 consecutive games – a school record. … Casey Morris and Chynna Brown have both surpassed 1,000 points in career scoring. Smalls is 54 points away from 1,000.
No. 5 Oklahoma State
Next at American Airlines Center: The Cowgirls will face No. 4 seed Texas Tech at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Thus far: 20-9 overall, 9-9 in Big 12.
Coach: Jim Littell.
Big 12 Championship history: 11-16.
Probable starters: Liz Donohoe, 6-0 Soph. F; Toni Young, 6-2 Sr. F; Kendra Suttles, 6-1 Jr. F; Tiffany Bias, 5-6 Jr. G; Brittney Martin, 6-0 Fr. G.
You need to know: Oklahoma State's best finish was a runner-up showing in 2008 when it lost in the championship game to Texas A&M in Kansas City. … Texas Tech swept the season series with the Cowgirls, logging a 64-59 win in Stillwater to open conference play as well as a 68-62 win in Lubbock on Feb. 27. … Junior Tiffany Bias has played all 40 minutes in eight consecutive games and has played 478 of a possible 480 minutes over Oklahoma State's last 12 games. Brittney Martin ranks in the top five among freshmen in scoring (third), rebounding (second), steals (first), blocks (fifth) and assists (fourth).
No. 6 West Virginia
Next at American Airlines Center: The Mountaineers will face No. 3 seed Oklahoma at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Thus far: 17-12 overall, 9-9 in Big 12.
Coach: Mike Carey.
Big 12 Championship history: First appearance.
Probable starters: Christal Caldwell,5-9 Jr. G; Taylor Palmer, 5-9 Jr.G; Averee Fields, 6-0 Soph. F; Linda Stepney, 5-7 Soph. G; Ayanna Dunning, 6-3 Sr. C.
You need to know: Junior Jess Harlee, who averages 19 minutes off the bench, had her season end when she suffered an ACL injury in the last game against Texas. … West Virginia is coming off scoring season-low 45 points in its loss at Texas in the final game of the regular season. … The Mountaineers are second behind Baylor in 3-point percentage defense but have struggled at the free throw line; they're last in the conference, shooting 64 percent. … West Virginia leads the Big 12 in steals, averaging over 10 per game. … The Mountaineers lost four Big 12 games by less than five points.
No. 7 Kansas
Next at American Airlines Center: The Jayhawks will face No. 10 seed TCU at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Thus far: 17-12 overall, 8-10 in Big 12.
Coach: Bonnie Henrickson.
Big 12 Championship history: 10-16.
Probable starters: Chelsea Gardner, 6-3 Soph. F; Carolyn Davis, 6-3 Sr. C; Angel Goodrich, 5-4 Sr. G; Monica Engelman, 5-11 Sr. G; CeCe Harper, 5-8 Jr. G.
You need to know: Kansas is a No. 7 seed for the first time and is 6-5 in first-round games in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. … Angel Goodrich is the career leader in assists with 727. She is one of eight players in Big 12 Conference history to post 700 or more assists. … Goodrich, Carolyn Davis and Monica Engelman all have scored at least 1,000 points in their careers. It's the first time since the 2000-01 season that KU has had three players with at least 1,000 points. … Junior guard Markisha made her first career start in the season finale and finished with a career-high 14 points.
No. 8 Kansas State
Next at American Airlines Center: The Wildcats will face No. 9 seed Texas at 6 p.m. Friday.
Thus far: 14-16 overall, 5-13 in Big 12.
Coach: Deb Patterson.
Big 12 Championship history: 14-15.
Probable starters: Haley Texada, 5-7 Soph. G; Brittany Chambers, 5-8 Sr. G; Chantay Caron, 5-11 Jr. F; Bri Craig, 5-10, Fr. G; Mariah White, 5-7 Sr. G.
You need to know: Due to five season-ending injuries for the Wildcats, Kansas State has been limited to an active roster of seven players during the last 10 games. At West Virginia on Feb. 26, K-State used six players in its rotation. … Senior guard Brittany Chambers is the only player in the Big 12 this season with 500 or more points, 200 or more rebounds and 80 or more assists. She's the fourth player in school history to score 600 or more points in a season and is the first Wildcat since 2003-04 to score 20 or more points 16 times.
No. 9 Texas
Next at American Airlines Center: The Longhorns will face No. 8 seed Kansas State at 6 p.m. Friday.
Thus far: 12-17 overall, 5-13 in Big 12.
Coach: Karen Aston.
Big 12 Championship history: 18-15; championship in 2003.
Probable starters: Empress Davenport, 5-7 Fr. G; Celina Rodrigo, 5-8 Fr. G; Chassidy Fussell, 5-10 Jr. G; Nneka Enemkpali, 6-1 Soph. F; Imani McGee-Stafford, 6-7 Fr. C.
You need to know: Texas is 0-2 against Kansas State when the teams meet in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. … Texas is ninth nationally in rebound margin. The Longhorns have a 9.5 per game edge on their opponents on the boards. … Chassidy Fussell leads the Longhorns in scoring at 14.4 per game and is on pace to become the fifth UT player to lead the team in scoring three consecutive seasons. … Imani McGee-Stafford has set a freshman record for blocked shots with 73, breaking a record that was set during the 1975-76 season. … Nneka Enemkpali has had 13 double-doubles this season.
No. 10 TCU
Next at American Airlines Center: The Horned Frogs will face No. 7 seed Kansas at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
Thus far: 9-20 overall, 2-16 in Big 12.
Coach: Jeff Mittie.
Big 12 Championship history: First appearance.
Probable starters: Zahna Medley, 5-7 Fr. G; Kamy Cole, 5-9 Fr. G; Latricia Lovings, 6-3 Jr. C; Veja Hamilton, 5-10 Fr. F; Natalie Ventress, 5-10 Soph. F.
You need to know: TCU has struggled on the boards; the Horned Frogs are last in the Big 12 in rebounding margin. … Sixteen of TCUs 17 victories in conference tournaments have come under coach Jeff Mittie. … This will be the Horned Frogs' fifth different conference tournament; previously they've competed in the Southwest, Western Athletic, Conference USA and Mountain West. … The Horned Frogs lost to Kansas by one point at home and by seven points in Lawrence. That game was last Tuesday. … Freshman Zahna Medley, TCU's top scorer at 12.7 points per game, had 35 points in the first meeting with Kansas.