NORMAN — Brittney Griner didn’t hesitate to come back for her senior year. After all, she was having too much fun.
It’s hard to blame her when she led Baylor to a perfect 40-0 season en route to the school’s second national championship. With all five starters back, including the reigning Associated Press player of the year, the Lady Bears are overwhelming favorites to repeat.
While Baylor will look very familiar to last season’s unbeaten squad with all five starters returning, there have been a lot of changes in women’s basketball over the past six months.
Teams shifted conferences and there were a record 75 coaching changes — none bigger than at Tennessee where Pat Summitt won’t be on the sidelines for the first time in 39 seasons. The Hall of Fame coach, who is battling early onset dementia, stepped down in April.
Summitt lost her final game to Griner and the Lady Bears in the NCAA tournament regional finals.
Baylor is in a good position to repeat as champions and cut down the nets April 9 in New Orleans. Few teams came close last season with the Lady Bears winning every game by at least five points.
Baylor wasn’t really challenged in the NCAAs tournament, winning its six games by an average of nearly 21 points.
“It’s not in our books to go undefeated, but it’s hard not to think about it after going 40-0,” Griner said. “It’d be nice to do it again, but our main goal at the end, win those six games and get a national championship.”
Getting back to the Final Four would be especially sweet for Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, who grew up in Louisiana.
“That would be something,” she said. “New Orleans will always be a special place to me.”
Top-ranked Baylor will begin its season Friday against Lamar. The Lady Bears are one of 14 ranked teams playing that day.