Blackmon ready to lead Baylor to first Elite Eight

3/25/2005 - Baylor Lady Bears

Editor's note: Before the Sweet 16 tips off, ESPN's Beth Mowins takes a look at one player to watch from each of the No. 2 seeds. Here, she focuses on Baylor's Steffanie Blackmon.

Steffanie Blackmon could only watch in disbelief.

After a foul was called on Baylor teammate Jessica Stratton with just two-tenths of a second left on the clock, Tennessee's Tasha Butts hit a pair of free throws to lead the Lady Vols past the Lady Bears in last season's Sweet 16.

Blackmon felt helpless. Sidelined with a knee injury, the 6-foot-2 post didn't get the chance to play in the biggest game in Baylor history. Until now, that is.

Baylor meets Minnesota on Saturday (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) for a berth in the Elite Eight, where no Baylor team has ever been before. It's a chance to keep her national championship hopes alive.

Blackmon has teamed with Sophia Young to form the most potent frontline in college basketball. The duo combines for 32 points and 17 rebounds per game. They account for nearly half of Baylor's scoring this year.

In the Sweet 16, Blackmon and Young face perhaps their biggest challenge of the season in Minnesota All-American Janel McCarville, who averages a double-double. The matchup in the middle is one of the most intriguing of the regional semifinals.

It has been a season of intrigue for Blackmon and the Lady Bears. In the wake of plenty of bad news coming out of Waco in recent years, Baylor women's basketball has been a beacon of good things. The community has embraced Blackmon and her teammates, who brought home a Big 12 championship this season for the first time in school history. There is also plenty of talk of a trip to the Final Four.

Blackmon has averaged 15 points and eight rebounds per game this year. She will close out her career as the all-time leading shot blocker in Baylor history. She is also in the top 10 in scoring, rebounds, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage.

On the court, Blackmon is good enough to earn Associated Press Third Team All-America honors. In the classroom, she has the distinction of being the first academic All-American in Baylor basketball history.

Beth Mowins is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.