Story by Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer, Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Sports Director
Baylor women’s basketball was named the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament on Monday afternoon.
The Lady Bears will make their 16th straight trip to the NCAA Tournament after clinching the No. 1 seed in the Greensboro Region.
Coming off a 31-1 season and sweeping the Big 12 Championship last week, the Lady Bears will host the first and second round of the NCAA Tournament and look to advance the longest active Division I win streak to 24 as they face No. 16 seed Abilene Christian on Saturday. The winner of the first two rounds will advance to regionals in Greensboro, N.C., next week.
The Greensboro Region includes Iowa, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Florida State and Kentucky. Coach Kim Mulkey said she was happy about the seeding.
“I feel like for the first time in a long time that every region got as close to an S-curve and that just does my heart good for women’s basketball,” Mulkey said. “Not just our region, but if you look at the top six to eight teams that could win this whole thing, I think that below them they tried the best they could to cover geography but also cover the S-curve. Usually when you look at a bracket, you look for who got the toughest region. I don’t know that any got one any tougher than the others.”
Abilene Christian will make its first D1 NCAA tournament in their second year of eligibility as the Lady Bears have made it 18 of 19 times under Mulkey, only missing out in 2003. In regards to facing ACU, Mulkey expressed her excitement towards facing a new team outside the Big 12.
“It’s always exciting to go to the playoffs because in conference, you just beat each other up. You know everything. You know every play, every move,” Mulkey said. “You spend more time game-to-game changing your calls because people steal what you’re normally calling. In the playoffs, you can scout, you can scout, you can scout. But, you don’t know each other as well as you do in conference. So I think it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Prior to the Kim Mulkey era that began in 2000, the Lady Bears never made it to an NCAA tournament. Since Mulkey has coached the program, the Lady Bears captured two national championships and made the Elite Eight each year from 2014-2017. The Lady Bears last reached the Final Four in 2012 and have hopes to reach their fourth one this year. Mulkey described this team as something special, especially for their off-the-court behavior.
“They just are happy for each other,” Mulkey said. “I can’t tell you how much that means for a team, because the greatest compliment they can give each other is that it doesn’t matter who receives all the credit because they’re a team. Kalani [Brown] can be good one night, [Lauren] Cox the next and Chloe [Jackson] the next and Didi [Richards] defense the next. The wealth will be spread.”
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Lady Bears have the second-best chance behind Notre Dame at 28 percent to win the NCAA title. With hopes growing to reach the Final Four, Brown said she’s ready for any opponent.
“I’m very excited, very pumped up and I’m very ready to play. I checked off everything I could think of in my career and the Final Four is the last thing,” Brown said. “I just want to play whoever comes, honestly. I don’t have a specific team. There’s different talent and different types of play. I don’t have a preference. I’m just ready to play.”