By Krista Pirtle
The swagger of being No. 1. The pride of being the trend-setter throughout the league. The discipline of knowing you have a target on your back but not letting it hinder your play.
From their back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball held this title, had this swagger and dominated despite the growing target on its back.
But, when Stamford pulled off an incredible upset, 71-59, Dec. 30, 2010, the Baylor Lady Bears stepped up from the No. 2 spot and have held the top ranking for the fifth straight week now.
Not only are the Lady Bears dominating their opponents on the hardwood, they are also learning what it means to be the No. 1 women’s college basketball team in the country.
Being the top program in the nation is quite an honor and does not mean that a team gets to ease up in practice because it’s the best.
Practices should become more intensive, focusing on how to better what is already good and strengthen any weaknesses that are apparent.
The top spot comes with multiple pressures: being put under a microscope by the entire sports world as it tries to exploit your weaknesses so as to defeat you, while opposing teams and fans circle your game on their schedule, knowing they will get to be a part of a great game and hoping they are the ones to bring the upset.
Sports analysts and reporters will praise the No. 1 team for their accomplishments, but they will also strive to provide a look inside to the team’s weaknesses.
It is true that no team is perfect, no team can have perfect stats game in and game out, but a No. 1 team is willing to accept that fact and improve on what they were not pleased with.
Secondly, opposing teams and fans cannot wait until they have a shot at the top team in the country, an opportunity to face off against the best, seeing how they match up and hoping for an upset.
This game will call for more than just the average fan base, but more people will show up to see what the No. 1 team is all about.
For example, at the women’s basketball game in College Station, between the Baylor Lady Bears and the Texas A&M Aggies, a record crowd of 13,162 was in attendance.
Well, the Battle of the Brazos is a huge rivalry, especially considering that roughly 88 miles separate the two schools. Plus, Baylor is No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 1 in the country, whereas A&M is No. 2 in the Big 12 and No. 6 in the country. Probably the biggest reason for the record-breaking crowd was that the Aggie fans were hoping they would be the ones to defeat the Lady Bears, knocking them out of the No. 1 spot in both the conference and the nation.
Sitting atop the nation should not cause a team to coast through the next game and the next. The team should be well aware of the target growing on its backs, as the other teams in the country are preparing for their shot.
Being No. 1 and the swagger that comes with it is a very special thing and should be appreciated by whoever gets to experience it.
Consequently, it does not come with only fame and glory, but hard work and discipline are needed to stay atop the masses, improving on weaknesses and not letting the adversities that arise slow the team down.
Krista Pirtle is a sophomore journalism major from Olney and a sports writer for the Lariat.