It says a lot about the women’s basketball program head coach Kim Mulkey has built here at Baylor that fans can be a little disappointed with a season that “only” ends after two Big 12 titles and an Elite Eight finish.
There’s plenty to celebrate, however, as we look back on the season, starting with the fact that four of five starters (and 12 of 14 on the roster) will return next year for another run. That’s the core of a team that set a program record with 34 wins, ranked No. 1 for seven straight weeks this winter, swept both the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles, and reached the NCAA’s Elite Eight in consecutive seasons — something only three other teams in Baylor history have accomplished* (baseball, 1977-78; men’s tennis, 2003-10; women’s tennis, 2008-10).
And while the team success is what matters most, the individual honors accorded several Lady Bears this year are worth noting as well:
- Kim Mulkey: USBWA National Coach of the Year, Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year finalist and Big 12 Coach of the Year;
- Britney Griner, sophomore: A finalist for the Wooden Award, Wade Trophy and Naismith Award, each yet to be determined and recognizing the nation’s top player, as well as first-team AP All-American, State Farm Coaches’ All-American, WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year;
- Melissa Jones, senior: honorable-mention AP All-American and first-team All-Big 12;
- Odyssey Sims, freshman: USBWA National Freshman of the Year, honorable-mention AP All-American, WBCA All-America finalist; Big 12 Freshman of the Year and first-team All-Big 12;
- Destiny Williams, sophomore: Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
Not to belabor the point, but if you scan that list, you’ll see four of those five will return next year. The Lady Bears’ starting lineup in the Elite Eight featured a freshman, three sophomores and a senior; at times, Mulkey said, it was “the young leading the young.” At least one writer has already suggested that based on their returning players, Baylor could be the preseason No. 1 team in the nation this fall, which would be another first for the program.
So while we all would have loved to have enjoyed another Final Four run and perhaps even a second national championship for this program, there’s always next year to look forward to — and based on what we know, 2011-12 should be another fun ride, indeed.
Sic ’em, Lady Bears!
* Though not in a tournament bracket like the aforementioned sports, the Baylor men’s track and field program also finished in the top eight at the NCAA Indoor Championships from 1988-92 and again in 1995-96.