There are four super elite teams in women's college basketball; Connecticut (in a class of their own), Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Baylor. The Bears (35-1) are the only team in that group to lose a game to a team outside of the super elite group. Baylor lost at Oklahoma State in December 52-45 but starting point guard Niya Johnson didn't play in the game. Coach Kim Mulkey has the program rolling. Baylor is 208-15 (.933) over the past six seasons. This is Baylor's 13th straight NCAA appearance (all under Mulkey) and their eighth straight Sweet Sixteen appearance.
Senior point guard and first team All-Big 12 Niya Johnson will get strong All-America consideration. The 5'8 guard from Gainesville, FL leads the nation in assists (8.9 per game) and is second in the nation in assist to turnover ratio (3.47). She is also the all time Big 12 assist leader. Johnson is not a big scorer at 6.9 points a game but she is an efficient shooter at a .489 clip. She is also not a three point threat only having made two all year. Johnson is an experienced veteran who is basically a coach on the floor who will not make mistakes. She puts her talented teammates in the best possible place to be effective.
Speaking of talented teammates, first team All-Big 12 performer Nina Davis is Baylor's leading scorer (16.1pts) and second leading rebounder (6.2reb). The 5'll junior gets most of her points on the interior and with her mid-range game. In order to have a reasonable chance to win FSU will need to keep Davis off the offensive glass and limit her opportunities in transition.
Baylor's third first team All-Big 12 member is redshirt junior Alexis Jones. The 5'9 guard is a transfer from Duke who is Baylor's second leading scorer (14.9pts). Jones is also BU's best three point threat shooting at a .415 clip. Kristy Wallace is another player the Noles will have to monitor. The 5'11 sophomore wing is fourth on the team in scoring (8.3pts) and is Baylor's only other likely three point threat at nearly 38%.
Baylor is a team that runs efficient offense but their real strength is on the defensive end. The Bears hold opponents to .329 shooting which is third in the nation. They rank sixth in the nation in blocks per game (6.3) and they force 18 turnovers a game while committing 15.2 per game themselves.
In terms of rebounding this game will be strength vs strength. FSU ranks fifth in the nation in rebounding margin at 12.4 but Baylor is even better at 14.8. FSU is a really good offensive rebounding team and they need that to continue to have any success tomorrow.
In their last game against Texas A&M, FSU shot well but they really won the game on the defensive end. In that game they had the luxury of only having one explosive scorer (Courtney Walker) to contain. Unfortunately for the Noles, BU has more weapons so FSU will have to play even better defense.
On paper, Baylor is the more talented team. They feature five former McDonald's All-Americans (FSU has two) and they will be playing a virtual home game. Dallas is only an hour and a half from Baylor's campus in Waco. The crowd will almost certainly be in Baylor's favor. However that was the case in College Station and FSU was able to get an early lead and they kept the crowd out of it for most of the game. That will be the challenge again tomorrow.
FSU will be a significant underdog in this game. However the Seminoles just played arguably the best game they have played all year. If they can summon another effort like that they will have a chance in this one. They will have to limit turnovers, do the job on the boards and play efficient offense; a couple of triples wouldn't hurt. It's going to be a tall order but FSU definitely has a chance to make their second Elite Eight in as many years.
The game is scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at 4pm in Dallas (ESPN). The winner will advance to play the winner of the DePaul vs Oregon State game. Sagarin has Baylor as a nine point favorite. That line is not adjusted for this game being a pseudo home game for Baylor because it is being played in Dallas.