By Tracy Schultz
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey has more than a passing interest in the Texas high school girls' basketball playoffs. She actually has two. Mulkey, who guided Baylor to the 2005 national championship, will watch her daughter try to win a title. Makenzie Robertson is a junior guard at Waco Midway, which will play in the Class 4A Final Four tonight. Brittney Griner, a 6-8 post who signed with Baylor in November, has led Houston Nimitz to the Class 5A semifinals. Although it's not the Final Four, Mulkey is facing a pretty big game this weekend too. The Bears, who are in second place in the Big 12, play host to third-place Texas A&M at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Should they advance to the championship game about 90 miles south of the Baylor campus, the Midway Pantherettes will tip off four hours before Mulkey's team. Where will she be?
"That decision's already been made. I will be at my daughter's game."
On watching her daughter play
"Mom overrules coach. I'm a mother when sit and watch her. I'm no different than any other parent. You just want your child to do good. I just want her to feel the exhilaration, the fun and all that, and what it feels like to win a championship. She was around when we won at Baylor and she cut the nets down with us, but to go as a player, I want her and her teammates to experience what it feels like to win a championship."
On Makenzie the athlete
"Makenzie is an athlete that can play any sport. She picks a ball and just gets in a rhythm and can just play. If she ever focuses and picks one sport, she'll be great at that. I don't want her to do that. I want her to enjoy her high school sports. We know what Makenzie's going to do in the future. She will play at Baylor for me."
On the thought of her daughter playing somewhere other than Baylor
"I'd be fine with that. I'd tell her, as long as you keep up your grades – she's ninth in her class, and she works hard for that. It's something she was born with. She has great habits. As long as she led a productive life, I'd be as proud as I am. I don't live my life through my children. I'd be fine with whatever she chose as long as it was healthy."
On Griner, who's dunks have drawn more than a half million views on youtube
"I am so proud of her. And I'm proud of how her team responded when she fouled out in the third quarter against Dulles (in the regional semifinals). Brittney was their biggest cheerleader. I'm just proud of how she handles herself. She's the ultimate team player, and she has such a presence on the floor. She's so dominating, but has such a softness about how handles it all."
On landing a player considered by many to be the No. 1 recruit in the country
"We never go in thinking we're going to get a kid with a number in front of their name.
We just start recruiting, and if we strike out on one, we try to go get another. When we got here, we wanted to improve this program from the bottom of the Big 12. Little by little, we built it up. When we won that national championship, it opened so many doors for us."
By Gabby Watson, producer of March To Madness
Zach Berman, Washington Post: Virginia Tech just needs one more win this season to make an impression on the NCAA Tournament selection committee. "We got to find something in the pit of your stomach that just makes losing not an option," coach Seth Greenberg said.
Lindsey Willhite, Chicago Daily Herald: With seven wins over teams in the RPI Top 50, does this Northwestern team deserve to be in the tournament?
Todd Golden, Terre Haute Tribune Star: Indiana State University's players are loving their chances to win it all at the MVC Tournament. "I'm pretty sure [the league] is thinking, 'These guys are playing hard, we have to have some sort of scheme,'" ISU guard Rashad Reed said.
John Berkowitz, Examiner.com: With Washington having currently having the intensity of a Velociraptor this team can go very deep in the NCAA tournament.
Jeff Washburn, IndyStar: Purdue players say they lost to Northwestern because they were outhustled and outworked."They played harder than us in Evanston, and they played harder than us here," Boilers coach Matt Painter said. "We are fortunate that we are 1-1 against them."
Matt Moran, Times-Delphic: Do you want to know the secrets of how Drake can win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament? A lot of the strategy has to do with rebounding and defense.
Tommy Braswell, Charleston Post Courier: Charleston forward Jermaine Johnson has some choice words for The Citadel who has beaten them twice so far: "If we meet up with them in the tournament, it's on. It is on. It is on. It is on. I guarantee we won't lose..."
By Andy Glockner
Whether by email from readers or from radio hosts during interviews, the most popular question this time of year is "What does Team X have to do to make the NCAAs?" And as nights like Wednesday's definitively prove, the correct answer is "There are too many variables at this point to know."
How can you judge a specific team's chances when you have no idea how many small-conference upsets will devour at-large bids nor how many teams will make late-season surges or spit the bit unexpectedly? Especially in a season like this one, where the elite teams are beatable and there is a huge cluster of similar teams around the cutline, a couple of unexpected results can significantly alter the picture.
What we do know after last night:
1) The SEC is now in a heap of bid trouble
Kentucky at Florida was billed in Monday's bubble watch as a death match where the loser was in serious danger of missing the NCAAs. Amplify that meaning tenfold after both teams fell Wednesday night. Florida's drop at Mississippi State wasn't unexpected; the Bulldogs are a solid club and the Gators have now lost six of their last seven SEC road games. Kentucky's home loss to Georgia, though, was horrendous and very well could condemn the Wildcats to the NIT.
If they don't win in Gainesville on Saturday (where Florida is 16-1 this season), the Cats are looking at a fourth-place East finish and are staring at a quarterfinal with LSU (should UK win its first-round game). Even a win there probably wouldn't be enough with an RPI that's now in the high 70s after last night's debacle.
Mike Wise, The Washington Post: When it seemed like no one believed in him, Gary Williams coaxed a bubble team out of the 13 players who did.
Jim Kleinpeter, The Times-Picayune: LSU guard Garrett Temple could be leaving a lasting impression with the Tigers as he is poised to become the all-time leader in minutes played. "To play that amount of minutes has been a blessing for me, " Temple said. "I really didn't think I'd be able to start all four years and contribute as I have. I'm glad I had the opportunity."
Paul Kenyon, Providence Journal: University of Rhode Island coach Jim Baron has no problem hyping up the Rams' chances for a NCAA tournament berth. "Bobby Knight is the one who said it best," Baron said. "He said that ultimately it comes down to winning games. That's the way I feel. I think that's the way it should be."
Curt Cavin, Indianapolis Star: With only days left before Selection Sunday some of the Big Ten coaches are starting to petition the selection committee. "I think 9-9 in this league is a very, very good season, very worthy of the NCAA Tournament," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "I think that's a great benchmark (for qualifying)."
Larry Hartstein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: With Georgia Tech's season coming to a thankful close, the seniors want to make one last stand. "It's been a rough season, but I definitely want to go out on top," senior Alade Aminu said.
Darryl Slater, Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia Military Institute twins Chavis and Travis Holmes have been the engine for the Keydets, with Chavis being the fourth Keydet to score 2,000 points and Travis being the ninth player in Division I history with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 300 steals.
Jason Franchuk, Provo Daily Herald: BYU is showing a very high level of experience and maturity as they barrel through the Mountain West Conference. "It's on the floor, it's in practice. It's how they watch film," coach Dave Rose said of his team's maturation."
By Tracy Schultz
It's a familiar tale for California. Once again, the Golden Bears had a chance to at least win a share of the Pac-10 title. They entered the weekend tied with Stanford in the top spot. That was before getting upset by a UCLA team that was without two starters, who were suspended for the game.
The Golden Bears' fate now lies in the hands of Stanford, which closes out the regular season with a homestand against Arizona and Arizona State. The Cardinal is undefeated at Maples Pavilion this season. It was just last year that Cal let a share of the conference title slip through its grasp when it was upset by Washington in the regular season finale. Cal isn't the only team that let an opportunity slip away:
A win at Tennessee wouldn't have helped Vanderbilt's standing in the SEC. The Commodores already lost their shot at the conference title when they were upset by Mississippi last week. They did have a rare chance to pull off a road win and season sweep over a young Tennessee team that has struggled with consistency all season. Despite their veteran lineup that includes a pair of seniors and juniors, the Commodores couldn't take advantage of the youthful Lady Vols. They're still winless at Thompson-Boling Arena.
North Carolina lost the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament. The Tar Heels' first loss to Duke in five games, kept that from happening. Instead, it's the Blue Devils that claimed the third spot. North Carolina, the preseason pick to win the conference is the No. 4 team. That means the Tar Heels will have to face Maryland, one of the hottest teams around, in the semifinals. The Terrapins have won nine straight.
Florida isn't exactly rolling into the SEC Tournament at full steam. The Gators, who at one time were in contention for the conference crown, have lost four of their last five games. They'll still have a first-round bye in the conference tournament, but losses to Vanderbilt, LSU, Arkansas and Georgia sent the Gators from the top spot to the four seed in the league.