Baylor Lady Bears
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REGION: Midwest SEED: 4
COACH: Kim Mulkey-Robertson CONFERENCE: Big 12
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
Steffanie Blackmon hurt her knee in the Big 12 quarterfinals against Texas Tech, but is expected to be ready for the NCAA Tournament. And with graceful jumping-jack Sophia Young, they provide a fearsome tandem inside. Then there's forward Dionne Brown, who's a strong battler inside and can hit the mid-range jumper. Baylor's inconsistency has been at guard, which is an irony for a Kim Mulkey-Robertson team. Jessika Stratton, Chelsea Whitaker and the other guards have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and avoiding sloppy possessions where Baylor never really gives its inside game a chance to do its thing. If Baylor can do that and has Blackmon back close to 100 percent, it is a dangerous team.
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward leads the team in scoring (16.4 points), ranking second in the Big 12 in rebounding (8.6) and steals (2.6), and third in field-goal percentage (.570). The only sophomore named to the All-Big 12 first team, Young hit double figures in all but two games during the regular season, with seven double-doubles.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
Baylor's power game inside has every opponent concerned.
Besides inside punch, however, the Lady Bears also feature more scoring from the perimeter than they've had the luxury of over the past couple of seasons. Four players averaged double-figures during conference play, which is one of the big reasons they led the Big 12 in scoring offense.
And be prepared for a fast one -- with its quickness and athleticism, Baylor loves to attack in transition.
The Lady Bears' inside game features a high-low combination of athletes, junior Steffanie Blackmon and sophomore Sophia Young.
While Blackmon has refined her touch and footwork around the hoop, Young can bound over almost anything in her vicinity, which is why she's one of the most influential rebounders in the league. And rumor has it that the girl can throw down the ball, too.
With senior guard Jessica Stratton and freshman target shooter Emily Niemann pin-pointing the 3, the Lady Bears have a variety of options that have enabled them to emerge throughout the season as one of the women's top 25.
For the Lady Bears to find success, they must continue to find the balanced scoring they've enjoyed all season.
More importantly, however, they must have greater consistency on the defensive end from their guard play.
While their guards are quick, they have occasionally shown a lack of aggression, which they can't afford to do in postseason play.