By Matt Larsen
We’re breaking Kim Mulkey’s golden rule. We’re looking ahead.
But after the Lady Bears survived round two with their tough- est conference foe in Texas A&M Monday night, one can’t help but steal a peak at the Lady Bears’ chances of (cross those fingers if you bleed green) winning out.
Baylor (24-1, 11-0) sits atop the Big 12 and the nation in all big polls and their only loss came to then No. 1 Connecticut. The Huskies now sit at number two after falling to No. 3 Stanford and all three are picked to be No. 1 seeds come March Madness.
But let’s not get too far down the calendar.
For the time they just consider finishing conference play and the Big 12 tournament with an unblemished 18-0 record.
As far as who would be most likely to derail them in the Big 12 championship, the Lady Bears have already beaten the second and third best teams.
The more one narrows the scope, the more one has to like the chances.
The Lady Bears face five more regular season conference opponents in Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado and have already beaten Tech and Oklahoma once before.
If anything would make Mulkey wary from that list, it would be the road contests.
Oklahoma currently brandishes a No. 14/15 ranking nationally and a third-place spot in the Big 12, though the nations two best teams (Baylor and UConn) each put up 85+ points against them as of Monday night.
The Lady Bears soundly defeated the Sooners in Waco, but if one is looking for someone to upset Baylor’s hope of running the table in the Big 12, they would turn first to the Sooner’s chances in Norman.
Prior to their trek to Norman, the Lady Bears first venture out to Lubbock to face Texas Tech.
Baylor trailed Tech at halftime of their first matchup this season in Waco, 29-28. The Lady Bears came back to win 64-51, but their 64 ties the Connecticut game for the second fewest points scored this season. (A&M held them to 63 in College Station.)
By record or standings the Red Raiders don’t seem to match up, sitting at No. 7 in the Big 12 with a 4-6 mark.
If they find a way to play the Lady Bears in front of a home crowd as closely as they did on the road, though, the Lady Raiders pose just as much a threat to Baylor’s perfect finish as any.
When considering who stands in its way, Baylor must also not overlook themselves. The No. 1 team in the country already came face to face with its humanity once this year when UConn senior Maya Moore managed just 14 in their loss to Stanford.
Not to downplay the chances of any of the remaining competition, but as seen during the first half against Tech, the Lady Bears cannot expect for their top performers to have poor halves and still be winning at the end of that half.
So far the Lady Bears have survived first halves in which their leading scorer sophomore post Brittney Griner has been virtually silent. The latest example came just Monday when Griner took just three points into the locker room, but finished with 26.
Both times they faced the Aggies, Baylor looked to freshman point guard Odyssey Sims to find a way to score when Griner either was taken out of the game by A&M’s defense or simply could not hit shots.
Both times she filled the void with critical buckets. Sims put up 22 points Monday night and 25 in College Station.
Granted, at No. 1 in the country the Lady Bears shouldn’t fear much.
What’s more, I would expect Mulkey and her intensity to be the subject of her player’s bad dreams more than the other way around.
Still, if the 10-year coach had nightmares about not winning out, they would probably involve single digits in the box score beside No. 0 and No. 42.
Matt Larsen is a junior journalism major from Katy and a sports writer for the Lariat.