Some Baylor fans were worried that this year might be a rebuilding year for Baylor’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. Instead, each program turned out one of the best years in its history, with the men advancing to the Elite Eight and the women earning their second Final Four appearance in six years.
The Lady Bears ran into the buzzsaw that is Connecticut in the Final Four Sunday night, losing to the top-ranked Huskies 70-50 as UConn extended its national-record winning streak to 77 games in a row. (See photos from Baylor’s Final Four weekend in San Antonio here.) Head coach Kim Mulkey’s squad finished the season 27-10, the team’s seventh straight season of 25 or more wins, and like the men were the last Big 12 Conference team standing in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Amazingly, Baylor did all this while leaning heavily on underclassmen. Of course, National Freshman of the Year Brittney Griner got most of the press (like this “Day in the Life of” feature from ESPN), but the Lady Bears’ starting line-up against UConn also included another freshman in Shanay Washington. Two other freshmen, Kimetria Hayden and Jordan Madden, were the first players off the bench. Baylor loses only one senior, Morghan Medlock, from this year’s team, while adding the nation’s top high school point guard to the roster this fall. As ESPN noted, there’s a bright future ahead for Baylor.
Also worth noting: During halftime of the Stanford-Oklahoma Final Four game Sunday, Baylor sophomore guard Lindsay Palmer was honored with the Elite 88 award for the 2010 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. The recognition goes to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 88 championships. Palmer, a psychology major with a 3.952 GPA, actually is the second Bear to be so honored this year; Baylor sophomore Jessica Ubanyionwu, a health science studies/pre-med major with a 3.942 GPA, also received the Elite 88 award at the Division I Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship last month.
The men’s and women’s basketball squads will host public year-end appreciation banquets next week. Head coach Scott Drew’s Bears will be highlighted April 12 (RSVP by April 7), while Mulkey’s Lady Bears’ gathering is April 15.
Sic ’em, Baylor basketball!