Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Let the Basketball Madness Begin Baylor Expected to Repeat as Women's Champion

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Let the Basketball Madness Begin Baylor Expected to Repeat as Women's Champion

Article excerpt

Legendary coach Pat Summitt, she of the steely stare, is retired from Tennessee, which means women's college basketball won't be quite the same. But Brittney Griner is back, all 6-8 of her dunking self, which means Baylor is the undisputed pick to repeat as national champion.

The Bears are ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll for the second season in a row. They never relinquished the spot all last season as they rolled to a 40-0 record and the national title.

All five starters are back from that team, including Griner, who averaged 23.2 points on 61 percent shooting and five blocks per game. She is the unanimous preseason selection for National Player of the Year, and barring injury will surely be the top pick in the 2013 WNBA D raft.

If Baylor can hang on and win back-to-back national titles, it would be the first school other than Connecticut or Tennessee to do that since the Cheryl Miller-led USC team did it in 1983-84.

"It's a humbling honor, which we'll embrace but it's just that -- an honor. It doesn't win basketball games. Our goal every year is to win championships," coach Kim Mulkey said of the preseason top ranking.

Breathing down Baylor's neck will be Connecticut, whose coach, Geno Auriemma, led the United States to a gold medal at the London Olympics over the summer. The Huskies have lost in the Final Four the past two seasons, but Auriemma has high hopes this year. He is particularly excited about freshmen Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck. Stewart, 6-4, can do it all and could become the next big star in the women's game.

Summitt's retirement and a recent Tennessee slump -- four years without a Final Four appearance -- suggest that the Vols won't be in the hunt for a national title this season. They are ranked No. 20 in the preseason poll, the lowest since the first poll in 1976-77. …

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