Brittney Griner and the Baylor Bears have one goal this season – a national championship.
Anything less would be a disappointment for the undefeated top-seeded Bears, who are looking to become the seventh school to run through a season unbeaten.
Standing in the way could be the other No. 1 seeds – Stanford, Connecticut and Notre Dame, dominant all season long. The Huskies and Irish both lost competitive games at Baylor this season.
Griner and Baylor, who lost in the regional final last season, could be the first team ever to win 40 games in a year, but coach Kim Mulkey only cares about one thing – a second national title for the school.
“We started hearing about that, and it’s never been a goal of ours,” Mulkey said of winning 40 games. “Our simple goal is to win a national championship.”
The basketball madness gets started today – the first step en route to the Final Four, which begins April 1 in Denver.
To get to their second Final Four in three seasons, the Bears might have to get through Tennessee, which is appearing in its 31st straight NCAA tournament.
The two teams met in November, and Tennessee held an eight-point lead early in the second half before Griner took over en route to a nine-point victory.
The 6-foot-8 phenom has been dominant lately scoring more than 40 points twice in the past 10 games, including a 45-point effort in the Big 12 tournament semifinals this past weekend.
Before a potential matchup with Baylor, Tennessee could meet Delaware and the nation’s leading scorer Elena Delle Donne. The 6-5 star is averaging 27.5 points this season and has guided the Blue Hens to a 30-1 mark.
Connecticut hopes to win its eighth national championship (tying Tennessee) and will start with a matchup against Prairie View.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma told the Huskies’ faithful in the preseason that this team wouldn’t win a national championship. But his young team has developed over the past five months, and Connecticut looks poised to make another run after beating Notre Dame for the Big East tournament title.
The Irish also have been focused on winning a title after falling just short last season, losing in the championship game to Texas A&M, which is a No. 3 seed in the Raleigh region.
Notre Dame, which will open up at home against Liberty, reached the national title game last year by knocking off UConn in the Final Four. It was the fourth straight season that UConn made the Final Four. The two teams, who already have played three times this year, could meet for a fourth time in Denver.
The Cardinal also have advanced four straight seasons to the Final Four, and coach Tara VanDerveer is looking to get her first title in 20 years. She’ll begin with a trip East to Norfolk, Va., to face Hampton. Stanford has won 28 straight games since its lone loss of the season to Connecticut.
“Baylor has had a great year,” VanDerveer said. “I think that Brittney Griner is a great player. … I hope we have a chance to play them. We want to go as far as we can. If that means playing Baylor, we’ll be ready.”