By Jeffrey Swindoll
After a stellar regular season, winning a share of the conference title, and first place in the Big 12 championship tournament, the No. 5 Baylor Lady Bears have high hopes for the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears (29-4, 16-2) were given the No. 2 seed in the Notre Dame region and face No. 15 seed Western Kentucky (24-8, 14-5) at 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2) Saturday at the Ferrell Center. The winner of that game plays the winner of the first-round game between Cal and Fordham, which will also be played at the Ferrell Center.
Western Kentucky came from behind in dramatic fashion to win the Sun Belt conference title last week, but WKU has not faced a team of Baylor’s caliber yet this season.
To say the least, the Lady Bears are huge favorites to win against WKU. Starting the tournament on a home court is a not a luxury all teams have. The Lady Bears will be in the comfort of their own gym with a massively one-sided crowd expecting more than 6,000 cheering the Lady Bears on.
It will be an advantage for the Lady Bears to play in the familiar confines of the Ferrell Center to start the tournament.
Having games in-state at a technically neutral site can be an easy way for teams to turn their NCAA games into home-court games.
It remains to be seen whether the Baylor Nation will make it to South Bend for the regional games to support the Lady Bears as well as they have on the road in the regular season, if they do win their opening games.
“No one want to go to someone else’s own floor,” Mulkey said on ESPN. “Hopefully we can get to South Bend.”
Should the Lady Bears make it to the regional final, they face a high possibility of playing the host and No. 1 seed Notre Dame— a team that Mulkey has called on numerous occasions the leading candidate for second-best in the nation behind Connecticut.