In the regional finals of the 2013 NCAA women’s tournament, the Louisville Cardinals shockingly defeated the Baylor Lady Bears. It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of basketball, as the No. 5-seeded Cardinals managed to use extreme physicality and an extraordinary three-point barrage to come away with the 82-81 victory against the No. 1 overall team.
Brittney Griner, the superstar who led the Lady Bears to an undefeated season and national championship in 2012, was largely ineffective for much of the game and didn’t have anywhere near the statistical output we have grown accustomed to.
The 6'8" senior scored just 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Considering this woman dropped 50 in early March, every single person outside of Kentucky was expecting Griner to come through with yet another huge outburst to help Baylor advance.
For Lady Bears fans, the toughest part about this loss is that it heralds in the end of the Griner era. During her tenure in Waco, the team won 131 games and lost just 15 (with 10 of those coming in her true freshman year). She led Baylor to one national championship in 2012, a Final Four appearance in 2010, an Elite Eight exit in 2011 and this latest disappointing Sweet 16 upset.
She was an unstoppable force on both ends of the court, having set the NCAA career record for most blocked shots in men’s or women’s basketball with 736. Griner finished just behind Jackie Stiles for most all-time points scored.
Life without Griner is practically unimaginable, but will be a stark reality for the Lady Bears in the 2013-14 campaign.
While some experienced players will be returning and Baylor won’t completely fall off the map, the program will not remain the dominant powerhouse favored in practically every game without Griner.
There's a good chance that this team drops from a perennial top seed and favorite to win the national championship to a run-of-the-mill good team.
It’s a sad end to a great era, but we look forward to seeing Griner shine in the WNBA—where she projects to be a superstar and could usher in a new dynasty for whichever team is fortunate enough to land her in the April draft.