Big 12 Women Roundballers: Best In The Land……By RC

I will give the Tennessee Lady Vols and U Conn Lady Huskies their due. In the 30 years that the NCAA has been crowning national champions in women’s basketball, these two programs have won exactly half of those titles. So I will concede that they have been dominant with the Lady Vols, under the direction of legendary coach Pat Summit, having eight of those crowns notched in their belts, while the U Conn women coached by Geno Auriemma have triumphed the other seven times. But while these two individual programs have dominated the landscape of women’s basketball, no other conference has achieved the success like the Big 12……………

In 1986 the University of Texas Lady Longhorns completed a perfect season with a convincing 16 point 97-81 victory over the Lady Trojans of Southern California. Goldthwaite native, Jody Condradt coached the Longhorn women to that historic championship. Now, this championship occurred before the creation of the Big 12. Nevertheless, the Longhorn women have always been a factor in determining the Big 12 champions and pretty much served as pioneers of the women roundballers that set the foundation for such an awesome conference………………

Move on to the winter of 1993 when the Sheryl Swoopes-led Lady Raiders from Texas Tech conquered the NCAA women’s basketball world with a hard fought nail biting 84-82 victory over the Lady Buckeyes from Ohio State. Texas Tech legend Marsha Sharp coached the Raider women to the championship, the second in just seven years, for the old Southwest Conference. And like the Texas women, the Lady Raiders gave the Big 12 instant credibility with their entrance into that newly formed league in 1996………………….

In the fall of 2000 then Kim Mulkey-Robertson (now Kim Mulkey) burst on the Big 12 scene as well as the national scene as women’s coach for the Baylor Bears. No stranger to success, Coach Mulkey immediately turned the Lady Bears into a national power. She was the first coach in the women’s division of the NCAA to win a national championship as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. She won the first two at Louisiana Tech University. Her championship as a head coach came when she led the Lady Bears to a 22 point 84-62 victory over the Michigan State women. This was the first national championship in women’s basketball since the beginning of the Big 12 in 1996……………………

This past season the Lady Aggies marched into the throne room with a 76-70 victory over the Lady Irish from Notre Dame. Gary Blair and the Aggie women captured the title but only after losing three times to Baylor. Twice in conference play and in the conference tournament championship game the Lady Bears prevailed, but winning a fourth time was just too much to ask and the Lady Aggies took the fourth tilt in the game in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA tournament. Coach Gary Blair and his gutty team once again brought the trophy back to the Big 12………………….

The epic battles waged between Baylor and A&M last year is just a snapshot of what happens each time that any two members of the Big 12 Women’s Hoops league tip it off in a conference game. While the four teams mentioned above have brought home the championship hardware, there have been other teams that have played deep into the women’s version of March Madness. The Sherri Coale-led Lady Sooners from OU made the women’s final four in 08-09 and again in 09-10. That program is no slouch either………….

Throw in the two Kansas schools, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State and you have the most competitive women’s college basketball conference in the country. As I stated earlier nothing comes easy in this conference……………………..

Currently, Baylor is ranked #1 in the country while Texas A&M holds down the number 8 spot. Texas Tech is number 16 and Oklahoma and Texas come in at number 24 and 25 respectively. The combined record of these four top 25 teams is 29-5. No other conference, at this writing, has five teams among the elite in the country………………………

What a year it promises to be and with high school basketball continuing to improve each and every year in Texas, I do not look for the highly competitive nature of this league to slow down. Only the departure of the Aggies to the Southeastern Conference will make this change any at all…………………

With all the potential in this league, I can hardly wait for conference play to begin. And then the conference tournament, and then March Madness and then………………..

well don’t be surprised if the Big 12 and one of the schools mentioned with one of those big trophies already in their possession, doesn’t come home with another………..

Here’s hoping and best of luck Big 12 ladies…………………………..RC

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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