Baylor University claimed the top overall seed for the National Collegiate Athletic Association women’s basketball tournament, where the Bears will seek to become the fourth school to win back-to-back titles.
Baylor, led by 6-foot-8 (2.03 meter) senior Brittney Griner and Hall of Fame coach Kim Mulkey, had a 32-1 record this season and enters the NCAA tournament with a 30-game winning streak. The Bears’ lone loss came against Stanford University at a November tournament in Hawaii and they topped the national rankings the final 11 weeks of the regular season.
“Just winning is motivation enough,” Griner said in a televised interview. “Everybody on this team, we’re competitors and we just have to go out and do what we need to do to get this win.”
Griner is the second-leading scorer in women’s college basketball history with 3,203 points. Jackie Stiles scored 3,393 at Missouri State from 1998-01.
The University of Notre Dame, University of Connecticut and Stanford also received No. 1 regional seeds in the 64-team women’s tournament, which begins March 23. The championship game is scheduled for April 9 in New Orleans.
This is the second straight year that Baylor, Notre Dame, Connecticut and Stanford were selected as No. 1 seeds. All of them advanced to the Final Four last year.
Baylor captured its second national title last season with an 80-61 rout of Notre Dame that capped a 40-0 season. The Bears last year became the first team -- men or women -- to win 40 games in a season.
The only schools to repeat as women’s champions are Connecticut (2002-04, 2009-10), Tennessee (1996-98, 2007-08) and the University of Southern California (1983-84).
“Nothing is really different this year,” said Griner, who averaged 23.6 points and nine rebounds a game for the Bears. “Our main goal is to go out, win these six games and get a national championship. That’s what we’re doing.”
The NCAA women’s champion has been a No. 1 or No. 2 regional seed for the past 15 years.
Baylor sits atop the Oklahoma City region and will play 16th-seeded Prairie View A&M (17-14) in its first-round game on March 24. Baylor’s regional also includes No. 2 Tennessee, No. 3 the University of California, Los Angeles, and fourth-seeded Purdue, while the Bears could meet Ivy League champion Princeton University, the ninth seed, in the second round.
Stanford is the top seed in the Spokane region, which also features No. 2 California, No. 3 Penn State and No. 4 Georgia, and opens play against Tulsa on March 24. Stanford had its 81-game Pac-12 winning streak halted in January by California, its potential opponent in the regional final.
Connecticut is No. 1 in the Bridgeport region and opens play on March 23 against Idaho. The other top teams in UConn’s group are No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 4 Maryland.
Notre Dame’s top competition in the Norfolk region is second-seeded Duke, No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 South Carolina. The Fighting Irish open on March 24 against the University of Tennessee at Martin.