We haven't talked much about the 2011-2012 version of the Lady Bears, but that is going to change as we get closer to the NCAA tournament. It really is a shame these ladies aren't getting more attention from the Baylor fandom. However, this team has the chance to be the best Baylor team of all time in any sport.
The Lady Bears are 28-0, 15-0 in conference and have already clinched the Big 12 championship with 3 games to go. They have the most dominant player in college basketball (men's included in my opinion) in Brittney Griner. The Lady Bears have just 3 more games left to win to complete just the 3rd ever perfect record in Big 12 play (and the first 18-0 in league history). They have one big hurdle left in going down to College Station to play the (ugh) defending champion Lady Ags.
So, how did this team get here and how much father do they have to go? Let's take a deeper look after the jump.
Coach Kim Mulkey has built this team starting with the two most important positions for a great basketball team; Center and Point Guard. She has the best player in college right now in Griner, and one of the best point guards in the country as well in Odyssey Sims. Surrounding them is a cast of very capable role players that know their role and play it well.
Brittney Griner is more than likely going to be the player of the year as a Junior this year. Worst case, she will be an All-American....again. She is on the Naismith, Wade and Wooden trophy watch lists, and was already chosen Preseason all everything.
All she has done is lead the NCAA in blocks with 5.4 per game, 1 more per game than her closest competitor. She is 2nd in the NCAA in field goal percentage, making 61% of her shots. She is 6th in scoring, getting 22.9 points per game. She is 32nd in rebounding, the one area she can still really improve at, but she still gets a very good 9.8 per game. And she leads the best defense in the country.
The Lady Bears defense holds teams to just 30.1% shooting (#1 in the nation), and just 50.8 points per game (#5 in the nation). They are #4 in rebounding margin, and #1 in blocks per game. They have done this in maybe the toughest conference in the nation, while also playing a marquee non-conference schedule (#3 Notre Dame, #4 Tennessee, #10 Tennessee).
Getting Griner the ball is Odyssey Sims, one of the best defensive point guards in the nation. She is Top 50 in assists with 4.8 per game, and is scoring 14.6 points per game. She is 11th in the country in steals with 3.3 per game. She directs the offense under the tutelage of all time great point guard Kim Mulkey, in what might be the hardest job in college sports. I would not want to be Coach Mulkey's point guard. I can only handle so many glares in one lifetime.
Sims is an excellent 3-point shooter, hitting a team high 39.6% among the high volume shooters. She is also excellent at the free throw line, hitting 83.3% from the charity stripe, a hugely valuable skill you want your point guard to have to be able to close out games.
Surrounding these two all-Americans are a very capable cast of role-players led by Destiny Williams (mid range jumper shooter, and rebounder), Kimetria Hayden (Defensive guard, and capable ball handler), Brooklyn Pope (great defensive post, amazing athlete, and capable scorer), and Jordan Madden (best perimeter defender I have seen in women's game, all around player). They all have their specific roles and Coach Mulkey has them playing them to their best abilities.
We have a ton of great athletes, players that can spread the floor and get to the rim off of penetration and kick outs from Sims or when a double team comes at Griner. This is a team that can score in several ways, but is at its best when dumping it off to Griner and working off of her, or getting out in transition. The Lady Bears don't force a lot of turnovers, but they do get a lot of long rebounds that let them get into their transition offense.
With games at Kansas, Texas A&M, and home against Iowa State, the Bears still have some work to do to finish the regular season perfect. It will not be easy. However, the season for the Lady Bears will really start in the NCAA tournament. The goal all year has been National Championship, made blatantly obvious before every game in the introduction video.
Most Bear fans are probably waiting for the tournament to get started before really diving into the Lady Bears. I say dive in now. Why wait to appreciate greatness. But you want to know the best part about this team? Every player that I mentioned above should be back next year for more greatness. The only senior that is a major contributor is Terran Condrey, who is 6th in minutes played for the Bears, and is our backup point guard and occasional shooting guard.
Appreciate the run Bear fans.