Baylor hopes to keep perfection going next year
DENVER—Brittney Griner had barely cut down the championship net when Baylor coach Kim Mulkey began talking about a possible repeat.
With the 6-foot-8 superstar coming back for her senior year and the other four starters returning, the Lady Bears will be the heavy favorite to repeat as champions if not go unbeaten for a second straight year.
"You're making me embrace it now instead of letting me enjoy this," Mulkey said. "Yes, we have everybody back that plays a majority of the minutes. We'll embrace it, you guys aren't going to let me hide it.
Mulkey would like nothing better than to get back to the Final Four, which will take place in her home state of Louisiana next year.
"If we lose two, three, four, five and we go 30 and 10 I don't care, I want to be in New Orleans," she said. "That's my home state, And I won't have enough tickets for family, but I'll do something to get them in the arena. But that's what we want, another national championship."
Griner was dominant in leading Baylor to the national championship. She had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Lady Bears to an easy 80-61 victory over Notre Dame in the championship game, capping an unparalleled 40-0 season for the Lady Bears.
"National championship, I wanted this because this is what our team wanted and this is what we promised coach when we got here," Griner said.
Now she has a chance to join a rare group of superstars who have won two titles. While there has been talk that Griner could go to the WNBA next year, she's emphatically said she will return for her senior season.
"All I know is I'm coming back, for sure I'm coming back," Griner said. "I'm going to be right here. I'm waiting for our first team meeting to see what coach has for us."
Whatever Mulkey dreams up, all eyes will be on Griner, who was The Associated Press player of the year and the most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament. The overpowering player with the 88 inch wingspan dunked twice in the tournament, matching Candace Parker for most dunks by a woman in NCAA tournament play and during a college career (seven).
Also back will be gifted guard Odyssey Sims, who scored 19 against Notre Dame, and players including Destiny Williams, Brooklyn Pope and Jordan Madden.
The mantra for the Lady Bears all season long had been "Unfinished Business." When the game ended, Griner ripped up a sign that a Baylor cheerleader was holding with those two words on it.
Baylor will have to find new inspiration next season. Maybe "Repeat" might work.
Baylor became the seventh women's team to run through a season unbeaten and the first in NCAA history to win 40 games. It was the second national championship for Baylor, which also won a title in 2005.
"Looking back when we get older, I'm always going to remember this moment, always going to remember confetti falling and being here with my team," Griner said.
She might get another chance again next year. Notre Dame, which has lost in the finals two straight years, loses a strong senior core. They still have talented guard Skylar Diggins, who led the team with 20 points.
Stanford also takes a hit with the loss of Nnemkadi Ogwumike to graduation. UConn may pose the biggest challenge to a Baylor repeat. The Huskies return most of their team that made it to the Final Four for the fifth straight year. They also add a talented freshman class.
Before Baylor has to worry about that, they can focus on a trip to the White House. The Lady Bears' victory gave President Barack Obama some bragging rights. He correctly picked Baylor to beat Notre Dame in the title game.