Kim Mulkey and Kalani Brown hadn’t checked yet, but they were sure they had a few text messages and missed calls on their phones. The Baylor Lady Bears had just been named the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Regional for the 2018 NCAA women’s basketball tournament. And the two Louisiana natives were extra excited to see that Baylor would open postseason play against Grambling at 6:30 p.m. Friday inside the Ferrell Center.
“You’re always excited to play at home,” Mulkey said. “I’m very familiar with Grambling State University. I think I’ve been to Grambling probably more than Waco. Shakyla Hill, you guys probably read about her, the quadruple-double. She was MVP in their conference championship game. They beat Southern, and in our state of Louisiana, Grambling vs. Southern is a big deal. Southern won the league. Grambling won the tournament. I bet when I get to my phone, I’ll have a lot of phone calls from Lincoln Parish.”
Brown has a few friends and AAU teammates that play for Grambling. But the Baylor junior and All-American won’t dish out any trash talk to her friends before the face off later in the week.
“I just play,” Brown said. “But I’m definitely gong to get a text message, if I haven’t already. ‘What’s up, Kalani? We’re going to come see you.’”
Mulkey did have one request, though, for Grambling.
“I want them to bring their band,” the Baylor head coach said. “And our band better be ready, because if you’ve never seen Grambling State University and their band, you’re in for a treat.”
While Baylor will face off against Grambling in the first round, Northern Colorado and Michigan are also coming to Waco for the NCAA tournament. The Baylor/Grambling game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. (CT), while the Michigan/Northern Colorado contest will begin at 4 p.m. Both games will be televised on ESPN2.The winner of Baylor’s contest against Grambling will face the winner between Northern Colorado and Michigan on Sunday. The winner of the second round will advance to the Lexington Regional on Friday, March 23 and Sunday, March 25 at Rupp Arena.
“Northern Colorado, just to give you a little background, Deb Patterson and Kamie Ethridge who was a great player at Texas who was her assistant at K-State, that whole (Kansas State) staff was let go and now they’re at Northern Colorado,” Mulkey said. “You’ll be familiar with their staff. Michigan, I’m familiar with coach Kim Barnes Arico, but I don’t know them and their personnel that well. Michigan will be a new team that I don’t know a lot about.”
The biggest question across the country heading into Selection Monday was whether or not Baylor would be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. For Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears, that seed didn’t matter. Baylor has been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed each of the last seven years. Baylor won its first national title in 2005 as a No. 2 seed before topping off the 40-0 season in 2012 with a national title as a No. 1 seed.
“I don’t get caught up in that, I really don’t,” Mulkey said. “We won a national championship as a No. 2 seed. We’ve won it as a No. 1 seed, and really, what does it matter? The No. 1 has to play the No. 2. Mississippi State was a No. 2 last year, and they played for a national championship. You want to be one of the top seeds so that your fans can stay home the first two rounds and see an NCAA tournament on your home floor. That’s what’s most important.”
For senior Dekeiya Cohen, this weekend will mark her final contests to play inside the Ferrell Center.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Cohen said “It’s good to play at home, at the beginning of the tournament, and having our fans there will mean a lot to us. Having home court advantage at home and the atmosphere, we’re definitely looking forward to it. Hopefully we’ll give y’all a show.”
Meanwhile Cohen’s fellow senior, Kristy Wallace, is currently back in Australia. Wallace got on a flight on Saturday to see the physician that her Australian national team recommended that she see.
“If she gets over there and they decide to do surgery, and that’s who she wants to do it, they’ll do surgery,” Mulkey said. “She still has to graduate, she still wants to be here for the banquet. She wants to be a part of the run, the playoffs. So, when you fly that far, I’m not sure if you do decide to have surgery over there how quickly they will release you to fly, things like that. But she wanted to get over there and make a decision and move on and get back here as quick as she can.”