Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship Coming Back to Dallas
Any way people look at it and from all angles, the powerful Big 12 Conference women’s basketball programs are bringing their championship rounds back to “Big D – little a-double l-a-s” as the old Phil Harris song used to go.
The postseason fun begins March 8, 2013, at American Airlines Center and finishes March 11 with the winner gaining the Big 12’s automatic NCAA bid.
And to say that the city, Big 12 officials and many coaches are ecstatic may the understatement of 2012. Teams and fans already are making their March plans, and even Dallas Mayer Pro tempore Paula Medrano greeted coaches, student-athletes, staff, and media at recent Big 12 Women’s Basketball Media Days.
“This is such a great asset for our program,” said Texas Tech head coach Kristy Curry. “I already have coaches and high school players telling me they have made their reservations, and this is a wonderful venue.”
As an eight-foot blowup replica of the Big 12 title trophy loomed some 30 feet away, defending NCAA championship head coach Kim Mulkey of Baylor toned the same sentiments.
“I’ve always believed that women’s basketball present a great market for good attendance,” Mulkey noted, “and Kansas City did a good job, but our tournament was not as well attended as the men’s was there. We have some terrific teams, and maybe the place for the women’s tournament to start drawing well again is Dallas. I know there is a large fan base for women’s basketball here.”
And the product that the Lady Bears will display on the AAC hardwood is nothing short of last year’s 40-0 NCAA winner, which returns virtually everyone, including Naismith Player of the Year Brittney Griner.In fact, Baylor is the unanimous choice for No. 1 in the 2012-13 Associated Press women’s hoops’ poll.
“I have done some research,” Mulkey continued, “four teams that have ever repeated as national champions are Louisiana Tech, USC, Connecticut, and Tennessee. And we’d like to possibly have that
kind of goal, but going undefeated is not a goal.”
The 13-year queen of BU women’s basketball (and for the Big 12 by acclamation at this point) brings in a 338-79 overall record and .811 winning percentage and NCAA trophies in 2005 and ’12. She also grasped a BU program, which had won 394 games in the previous 27 seasons to 11 NCAA appearances and almost half (338 of 732) of BU’s all-time overall triumphs.
But Mulkey was joined onstage throughout the day by coaches who have established nationally-known programs on every level.
Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale of Oklahoma is 357-168 in 16 years and Final Four appearances for a program which almost dropped women’s basketball in 1991. Legendary head coach Bill Fennelly at Iowa State engineered a Bill Snyder-like turnaround for the Cyclones with 372 wins in 17 seasons and an amazing 13 NCAA appearances – all under his watch.
“I have the boxscore framed in my office of our first game at Iowa State in 1995,” laughed Fennelly. “The attendance was 310. To say that Big 12 women’s basketball has come a long way is an understatement, and I can’t thank our fans enough for their great support.”
Newcomers to the Big 12 TCU and West Virginia bring in seasoned coaches and perennial NCAA contenders as well. The Horned Frogs’ Jeff Mittie is 276-140 over 13 years and nine NCAA appearances (every one in school annals) while WVU’s Mike Carey averages 20 wins annually at 227-127 over 11 seasons with six NCAA trips from rugged Big East Conference competition before WVU joined the Big 12.
Along that same line, only two games (1997 and ’98) since 1968 have been played without at least one of the stories programs ranked among the Top 25.
“We actually played both TCU and West Virginia a few years ago in the Virgin Islands tournament, of all places,” Fennelly recalled. “These are two very physical programs with national reputations and plenty of NCAA experience. They both were very competitive in their previous conferences.”
“The toughest conference in the country just got tougher,” said Kansas State head coach Deb Patterson with a grin. “The talent up and down this league keeps us all motivated, and this is just a showcase conference for women’s basketball. We all try to work harder and compete against some extremely talented opposition.”
Patterson, a longtime assistant at Vanderbilt under then-coach Jim Foster, also is no stranger to massive success. Her 16 teams have combined for 320 wins, a berth in the first Big 12 championship in 1997 against Colorado and 10 NCAA postseason visits.
Kansas also enters the 2012-13 season on a roll under eight-year head coach Bonnie Henrickson. The 21-13 Jayhawks advanced three games into the 2012 NCAA tourney with wins over Nebraska and Delaware. The same goes for Oklahoma State as head coach Jim Littell and his second team after the passing of head coach Kurt Budtke in a plane crash last year shot for the stars. The inspired Cowgirls won the WNIT last season and closed 22-12 with a 75-68 triumph over James Madison.
And Texas’ traditional powerhouse program turns to the talents of former longtime assistant and Jody Conradt trainee Karen Aston as head coach. Aston performed a remarkable turnaround at North Texas in 2011-12 and has 101 victories in five seasons at UNT and Charlotte since 2007
The TCU head coach particularly is pleased with the chance to play in a locale some 30 miles from his Fort Worth campus and to be joining the premier hoops’ conference after coming from the Mountain West.
“Obviously, players want to play in the best leagues in the country,” Mittie stated. “When you look at what the Big 12 has been able to do across the board with winning national championships, being in Final Fours,
multiple teams doing those things, the attendance, interest that this league, and this venue (Dallas and the AAC), recruits want to play in these environments. Our fans are just going to have a fantastic time coming over to see us play here for the first time.”
Yep, it is bigtime college basketball in a world-class arena with some of the top talent nationally, and it’s all coming to Dallas March 8-11, 2013.
2012-13 Big 12 Coaches All-Conference Honors
Preseason Player of the Year
Brittney Griner, Baylor, C, 6-8, Sr., Houston, Texas/Nimitz
Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Jackie Patterson, Texas Tech, F, 6-1, Jr, Frisco, Texas/Hutchinson Community College
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Alexis Prince, Baylor, G, 6-1, Fr, Orlando, Fla./Edgewater High School
Preseason All-Big 12 Team
Name School Pos Ht Cl-Exp PPG RPG Hometown/Previous School
Brittney Griner Baylor C 6-8 Sr-3L 23.0 9.5 Houston, Texas/Nimitz
Odyssey Sims Baylor G 5-8 Jr-2L 14.9 3.0 Irving, Texas/MacArthur
Chelsea Poppens Iowa State F 6-2 Sr-3L 14.2 10.6 Aplington, Iowa/Aplington-Parkersburg
Angel Goodrich Kansas G 5-4 Sr-3L 14.0 4.1 Tahlequah, Okla./Sequoyah
Aaryn Ellenberg Oklahoma G 5-7 Jr-2L 15.5 3.5 Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman
Honorable Mention (listed alphabetically by school)
Destiny Williams (Baylor), Carolyn Davis (Kansas), Brittany Chambers (K-State), Whitney Hand (Oklahoma), Chassidy Fussell (Texas), Asya Bussie (West Virginia).
Coaches 2012-13 Predicted Order of Finish – First Place Votes in Parentheses
1. Baylor (9) 81
2. Oklahoma 65
West Virginia (1) 65
4. Kansas 58
5. Texas 46
6. Iowa State 42
7. Oklahoma State 39
8. Texas Tech 25
9. Kansas State 20
10. TCU 9