Viewpoint: Final Four or bust for Lady Bears

Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

The Lady Bears impressed this season as they finished undefeated at home and only lost one game on the road, while continuing to believe in their motto that “eight is not enough.”

While watching from the outside, I have started to believe them when they bring up that motto.

Doubts crept in when they lost their first conference game to Oklahoma State on the road 52-45, but looking back at it now, that loss seemed to have made them a stronger team.

Since the loss, the Lady Bears seem to have become more focused and have set their eyes on one goal, making it to the Final Four, while taking each game one at a time.

Statistics show that the Lady Bears have dominated in the paint this season, which could very well be the key for them moving forward.

However, Lady Bears have yet to play a team who can match up to their size in the paint, and their true potential will be tested when they face a team that does.

At 6-foot-7, freshman forward Kalani Brown has come up big for the Lady Bears in the paint as she has averaged 9.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. However, her maturity as a player will show when she faces someone of a similar stature and skill.

With the way the Lady Bears have been playing thus far this year, they should be able to get through to the Final Four without a mishap, but the real challenge would come against the No. 1 overall team, Connecticut (34-0), who appear to have a defensive answer to Baylor’s size in the paint and guards on the perimeter.

Although the Lady Bears have a strong shooting team from the perimeter, sophomore guard Kristy Wallace and junior guard Alexis Jones will need to be shooting lights out if they want to make it past the semifinals.

Connecticut has done nothing but impress this season. Even head coach Kim Mulkey has said that they are the team to beat, and until someone does that, they are the best.

“Connecticut is by far the best team until somebody can beat them. I’ve watched some South Carolina, certainly. We’ve played Notre Dame and watched them this year and I think we are one of the top teams in the country. We’ve been able to stay away from injury,” Mulkey said. “If you can stay away from injuries and you can keep getting production from a lot of people, this team could get to a Final Four. I can’t guarantee we will. It’s who’s playing good at the right time, and as you go further along in the NCAAs, teams get better. I know I have senior leadership, and junior leadership and freshmen who are not afraid anymore.”

Husky senior forward Breanna Stewart has dominated women’s basketball throughout her career, and has continued to do so in the NCAA tournament. Stewart is the only player in the history of the NCAA tournament to be honored as Final Four Most Outstanding Player three years in a row, and looks to make it a fourth.

If the Lady Bears want any chance at all to get past the Huskies, they will have to find a way to shut down Stewart or their party will be put to a halt, and they will be packing their bags to come back to Waco.

All in all, with a top point guard like senior Niya Johnson leading the way, the Lady Bears seem to be in good hands as they continue to move forward.

While a Final Four appearance remains likely, getting any farther than that would be nothing short of a miracle.

But when you look back at it, all they kept saying was that “eight is not enough,” so perhaps just making it to a Final Four will be satisfying enough.