With another Big 12 championship, both regular season and conference tournament, under their belts, the season's focus becomes clear. It has been four long years since the Lady Bears made it to the Final Four. Their last trip was the culmination of a perfect 40-0 season in 2011-2012 that resulted in the program's second national title.
The next year, the Lady Bears, starring Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims, were upset by a pesky and annoying Louisville team in the Sweet Sixteen. With Griner gone and just Sims remaining from the all-american duo, the Lady Bears were bested by Notre Dame at the doorstep of another Final Four. Last year, the same end result, a loss to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, just a game away.
As the premier team of the Big 12, one of the best basketball conferences in the nation, a goal of reaching the Final Four is not only realistic, but expected. With a team loaded with experience, featuring All-Americans Niya Johnson and Nina Davis, the goal was set early for the Lady Bears. Eight is not enough. During every practice, they are reminded of this fact via wrist bands. The coaching staff has drilled it into their hears since the summer.
This weekend, that work and preparation will prove itself worth or a waste. Saturday afternoon, the Lady Bears will host 5th seed Florida State, who bested former conference rival Texas A&M in the 2nd round in College Station. If the Lady Bears can get past the Seminoles, they will face the winner of 2nd seed Oregon State and 7th seed Depaul.
The last time the Lady Bears had a regional final in Dallas, they were the top-seed, coming in 34-2 on the year. The 2nd seed opposite of them were the Lady Aggies, who had lost to the Bears three times already. The fourth time, and most important time, the Lady Ags won, sending the Baylor home after surprisingly advancing to the Final Four the year before in Griner's freshman season.
Florida State took the Lady Ags out, removing some hope of vengeance against a former rival. Alas, revenge isn't on the mind of Kim Mulkey. It truly is all about advancing back to the Final Four and getting a crack at a 3rd national title.
The Lady Bears come into this weekend playing some of their best basketball in the Kim Mulkey era. They have won 22 straight games since a conference opening loss to Oklahoma State where Niya Johnson missed the game. Outside of that one blip, the Lady Bears have been perfect, a stunning 33-0. They are easily one of the best four teams in the nation, with most believing that they might be second best behind UConn, the three-time defending champions.
With two more wins, the Lady Bears would most likely face the Huskies in the national semifinals, a match up of the best program in college basketball right now, with one that is easily in that next tier. The goal is Indianapolis, the site of the Lady Bears first national championship back in 2005.