Women's Tournament 2013: Why Baylor Is Poised for Great March Run

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2013

Feb 23, 2013; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears center Brittney Griner (42) battles for a rebound with Texas Longhorns forward Sara Hattis (35) during the first half at the Ferrell Center.  Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to predict big things for a Baylor team that is 102-4 in the past three years and won a national championship last season. A little boring, even.

But Baylor is so good, you have to ignore your urge to predict that another team, perhaps a sleeper team, will win the national championship. The smart money is still on Baylor.

It all starts with Brittney Griner, the most dominant college basketball player in the country—man or woman. This season, Griner is averaging 22.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game. Few players can dictate how a game is played like Griner does in the post.

Don't believe me? Last season, Griner blocked more shots than any other Division I team. She's the Wilt Chamberlain of the women's game.

Having a rock in the middle is vitally important come the tournament. I'd say Griner is a rock.

But so is guard play, and Baylor is covered there too. Odyssey Sims (12.3 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.8 SPG) and Jordan Madden (8.0 PPG, 39.6 3PT%) are an excellent backcourt pair, while Kimetria Hayden (7.5 PPG, 4.1 APG) gives the team solid minutes.

And Baylor has solid depth. Nine players on the team are averaging 14 or more minutes per game, so you won't have to worry about Baylor's starters wearing out down the stretch. 

Nor will you have to worry about the bright lights of the NCAA tournament intimidating this team. Remember, Baylor went 40-0 last season and won the national championship and lost in the Elite 8 to Texas A&M the year before that. 

In Griner's freshman season, the team advanced to the Final Four, so making deep tournament runs has been a staple of the Griner era. You better believe she'll be looking to finish her college career as a two-time champion.

But Baylor can be beaten, even if it's only happened once in the past two years. This season, Stanford defeated the Lady Bears in November at a neutral court in Hawaii, 71-69. So how did they do it?

Well, the fact that Odyssey Sims only played four minutes due to a hamstring injury was a big factor, as was the altered schedule of the Rainbow Wahine tournament.

And still, had Griner hit a shot at the buzzer, Baylor would have sent the game into overtime.

It's hard to find a weakness here. Since losing to Stanford, Baylor has rattled off 26 straight wins. Anything less than another national championship will be a major disappointment. 

So, no, I'm not going out on a limb projecting Baylor will win a second consecutive national championship. I'm just following the evidence, folks. 

And I'm not betting against Griner. That's not smart money.


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