• Lady Bears carry preseason No. 1 national ranking into 2011-12 opener

    Baylor Lady Bears huddleThe Baylor Lady Bears will begin the year with a target on their backs after claiming the No. 1 spot in both the preseason AP Top 25 and USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.

    The honor is the Lady Bears’ first No. 1 AP ranking at any point in a season, and also the team’s first preseason No. 1 ranking. (Baylor was also tabbed as the preseason Big 12 favorite by league coaches for the third straight year, receiving all of the possible nine votes [coaches cannot vote for their own team].)

    The Lady Bears aren’t just sitting on their laurels and coasting through the non-conference schedule; head coach Kim Mulkey’s squad will face No. 3 Tennessee and No. 4 UConn before Christmas, and could also play No. 2 Notre Dame in the preseason WNIT. Baylor, however, will enter such showdowns fully prepared. Baylor returns four of five starters from last year as well as nearly 90 percent of their scoring and rebounding from last season’s Elite Eight run.

    Junior Brittney Griner, the first two-time preseason all-American in program history and just the eighth unanimous preseason AP all-American ever, leads the way. Picked to repeat as Big 12 Player of the Year by the league’s coaches. Griner is joined by sophomore guard Odyssey Sims on the preseason All-Big 12 squad. Griner and Sims are also on the watch lists for two national player of the year honors, the Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy.

    The Lady Bears open up the season Friday night at 6:30 p.m., hosting Howard in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. The winner of that game will face the winner of UAB/Chattanooga Sunday at 2 p.m. in Round 2.

    Sic ’em, Lady Bears!

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