The Lady Bears (33-1) were given the No. 1 seed in the Dallas region of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Monday night. For the fifth year in a row, the Ferrell Center will host the first two rounds of NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
“This time of year, there are no bad teams. I don’t even know how the committee can rank and select who gets what seed because it’s a difficult task, but it’s a reward for the team, but also for our fans,” said head coach Kim Mulkey. “When you can host the first two games here, and if you should win those and get to go to Dallas, it’s a perfect setup. It doesn’t guarantee any wins, but it’s certainly good for our fans.
With the No. 1 seed in their hands, the Lady Bears will take on No. 16 Idaho at 5 p.m. Friday at the Ferrell Center.
The Vandals are advancing to their third NCAA tournament appearance in four years.
“We played them a few years ago,” Mulkey said. “I can bet you without having seen them play this year that they can all shoot the three ball, so here we go again going up against another team that can shoot the three ball.”
Junior guard Alexis Jones has made her mark on the court this season after transferring in from Duke and sitting out because of injury.
“Alexis Jones is so talented, and to have her blend into this team with all the talent we already had speaks volumes of her being super intelligent to figure it out and work her way into it and being a great player here,” Mulkey said.
Louisville and Texas A&M are both in the Lady Bears’ side of the draw and a matchup between them is possible in the Elite Eight.
“I’m not going to talk much about those guys because we all have to win to meet up in the Dallas regional, but isn’t that funny? Those two guys had our number the last time we played,” Mulkey said.
With senior forward Breanna Stewart leading the way, Connecticut has dominated this season and have deservingly earned the No. 1 seed overall. With the Lady Bears looking to make it to the Final Four, a matchup with the Huskies could be in the making.
“UConn is the team to beat,” Mulkey said. “UConn is just better, but I’ve won a national championship at Baylor when the better team didn’t win and I have lost a national championship when the better team didn’t win.”
“I have been a part of it long enough to know the highs and lows of this business. Are we talented enough? Yes. Are we experienced enough? Yes. Will we play good enough? I don’t know. Just go play and do the best you can.”
With the motto all season being “eight is not enough” the Lady Bears look to make their mark as they start the run to a NCAA championship.
“Our goal today is to win four games,” Mulkey said. “If you win four games, you get to the Final Four. Once you’re there, anything can happen.”
Baylor men’s basketball has received a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row and the sixth time under head coach Scott Drew.
The Bears (22-11) were given the fifth seed in the West Region and will play twelfth-seeded Yale (22-6) in the first round on Thursday in Providence, RI.
“You can never take making the NCAA Tournament for granted,” Drew said, “you’ve got another opportunity in March, and I know our seniors are excited about it.”
In last year’s tournament, Baylor, a three seed, was upset in the first round by 14th-seeded Georgia State 57-56.
“Last year, we didn’t like how it ended,” Drew said. “We had had a lot of success in the tournament, and that was the first time we really got stung. I know the returning players and coaches are motivated to make sure we do better.”
The Bears held a twelve point lead with just three minutes left before watching Georgia State guard RJ Hunter bury a long three to give the Panthers the upset win.
“That loss is on everybody’s mind,” sophomore guard Al Freeman said. “We know what it’s like to get upset, we know what it’s like to be sent home in the first round. It’s not fun, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. And we don’t want that this year.”
Baylor faces a Yale team that made the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time in school history and the first time since 1962.
The Bulldogs won the Ivy League by posting a conference record of 13-1, with the only loss coming on the road against Princeton.
Yale is the automatic qualifier for the Ivy League after winning the regular season crown because the conference does not have a tournament.
“They’re not here for no reason,” Freeman said. “They made it out of their conference, and it’s hard to do that, especially when you’ve got to win your conference to make it in. It takes a lot of heart, it takes a lot of grittiness, focus, determination. That’s why they’re in the tournament right now.”
The Bulldogs will lean on sophomore guard Makai Mason and senior forward Brandon Sherrod who lead the team in points, averaging 15.8 and 12.5 per game respectively.
A win in the round of 64 would likely result in a matchup with fourth-seeded Duke in the round of 32. The Bears and Blue Devils met in the Elite Eight in 2010, with Duke winning 78-71 and then going on to the claim the national title.
Even-numbered years have been good for Drew’s Baylor teams, as the Bears have reached the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012 and the Sweet Sixteen in 2014.