Baylor earns No. 2 seed in Tempe Regional
Here's how remarkable Baylor's season has been -- earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a trip to Seattle was a bit of a disappointment.
Given their Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles, the Lady Bears hoped they could pull off the program's first No. 1 seed when the NCAA brackets were announced Sunday.
"I felt all along there were four teams fighting" for the last two No. 1 seeds, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson said after watching them go to Tennessee, LSU, North Carolina and Michigan State. "There wasn't much to separate the four of us."
Tennessee and LSU were no surprise for No. 1. Stanford and Baylor were two teams left out of the top spots.
As the No. 2 seed in the Tempe Regional, Baylor (27-3) will travel to Seattle for its first-round game Saturday against 15th seed Illinois State (13-17), which earned its spot in the tournament by winning the Missouri Valley Conference.
Baylor is one of seven teams from the Lone Star State to make the NCAA Tournament field of 64. The others are at-large qualifiers Texas (21-8), Texas Tech (22-7) and Houston (21-8) and automatic qualifiers Rice (24-8), TCU (23-9) and Texas-Arlington (21-9).
Baylor's season has been one of unprecedented success for a program that finished last in the Big 12 in 2000. The Lady Bears captured their first Big 12 titles this season and reached as high as No. 2 in the Associated Press rankings.
Now they'll try to improve upon last season's NCAA Tournament run that got them to the round of 16 for the first time. They lost to Tennessee 71-69 after the Lady Bears were whistled for a questionable foul with .2 seconds left and the Lady Vols hit two free throws for the win.
"We'll certainly appreciate all the recognition we've received this season, but now we've got to keep going," Mulkey-Robertson said.
She was disappointed her team must travel so far to play. The fans that have supported her team's rise through the Big 12 will be hard-pressed to follow them all the way to Seattle.
"That's the disappointment more than the seeding," Mulkey-Robertson said. "Seattle is not a drivable distance for our fans. But at least our tournament is beyond the days when you're playing someone on their home floor."
Baylor also wants to avoid an upset like it experienced in 2002. The Lady Bears drew a No. 2 seed that year but were knocked out by Drake in the second round.
Texas earned the No. 3 seed in the Chattanooga Regional and will face No. 14 Oral Roberts (22-8) in a first round game in Dallas.
The Longhorns started the season ranked No. 2 in the country and were among the clear favorites to compete for the national title. After a rugged start to the season, the Longhorns closed furiously, winning 11 of 12 before losing in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
If the Longhorns win their first round, they could get a rematch with No. 6 Georgia, which beat Texas 78-64 in December. The Bulldogs (22-9) play No. 11 Rice.
"I think we've grown a lot since that second game of the season," said Texas point guard Jamie Carey, one of six seniors on the roster who were on the 2003 Texas team to reach the Final Four.
"Win and advance," Carey said. "That's all we need to do."
Rice earned its first bid since 2000 by winning the Western Athletic Conference title. The Lady Owls shared the regular-season title with Louisiana Tech and then beat the Lady Techsters in the conference tournament title game.
Also going to Dallas for a first-round game is perennial tournament team Texas Tech, which finished fourth in the Big 12. The Lady Raiders are making their 16th tournament appearance and will play the No. 13 seed, Texas-Arlington.
The Mavericks earned their first bid by winning the Southland Conference tournament.
"It is fun to set a goal and have them accomplish it. It is a thrill to be the first team to go," Texas-Arlington coach Donna Capps said after her team won the conference championship.
"We'll have to be up-tempo and athletic and match their enthusiasm," said Tech coach Marsha Sharp. "We'll have our work cut out for us the very first round."
TCU (23-9) earned its fourth straight bid by winning the Conference USA tournament a week ago. The Horned Frogs are the No. 7 seed in the Tempe Regional and boast the conference player of the year in Sandora Irvin, who set an NCAA record with 16 blocks in a win over UAB in January.
If TCU beats No. 10 Oregon in the first round, the Horned Frogs are likely to meet Baylor in the second round.
Houston is the No. 10 seed in the Chattanooga Regional and will meet No. 7 Boston College (19-9) in Chapel Hill, N.C., in the first round.
Three Texas teams made it into the Women's NIT tournament -- Texas A&M, SMU and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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