Baylor women in usual role hosting 1st-round NCAA games
WACO, Texas (AP) Kim Mulkey and Brooke Stoehr were both NCAA Final Four point guards at Louisiana Tech.
The former pupils of legendary women's coach Leon Barmore are now coaching against each other in the NCAA Tournament. Mulkey's perennial Big 12 champion Lady Bears are home Friday to play a Northwestern State team, co-coached by Stoehr and husband Scott, that has never won an NCAA game.
''I guess I don't even think about her having played for me. You're so focused on your job,'' said Mulkey, an associate coach for Barmore when she recruited Stoehr before leaving two seasons later to coach Baylor in 2000. ''Hug `em in the hallway, and say good to see you, how's the family doing, how are the kids doing. But it's just a job, and I don't think of it any other way.''
Especially at tournament time.
Baylor (30-3), the No. 2 seed in the Oklahoma City Regional, is starting the NCAA Tournament at home for the fourth time in five years. The Lady Bears, now with Big 12 player of the year Nina Davis and national assists leader Niya Johnson, have been to at least the Sweet 16 six years in a row.
Northwestern State (19-14) had to win four games in four days for their second Southland Conference tournament title in a row and fourth NCAA berth.
The other first-round matchup in Waco features No. 7 seed Northwestern (23-8), not to be confused with Baylor's opponent from Louisiana. The Wildcats take on No. 10 seed Arkansas (17-13) from the SEC with first-year coach Jimmy Dykes.
Big Ten team Northwestern is in its first NCAA Tournament since 1997, seven years after hiring coach Joe McKeown.
''I was coming off 17 NCAA tournaments, and I've learned you can't take anything for granted,'' McKeown said. ''To be back now is awesome, and I think for our program, these guys are really mature from the standpoint of they understand they've built so many bricks right now, and they've paid a lot of dues, but you also have this opportunity that you don't know you're going to have again. I think we have a great awareness right now.''
McKeown went to the NCAA Tournament 15 times in 19 seasons at George Washington, with 13 first-round wins, after two NCAA appearances in three seasons at New Mexico State.
Here are a few other things to watch in Waco:
NOT CONTENT: When Arkansas got its first NCAA berth in three seasons, Dykes talked to his players ''to make sure that there wasn't one ounce of we're just happy to be in the tournament inside of us.'' Senior guard Calli Berna said the Razorbacks want to appreciate that they are in the tournament, ''but we also know it's time for business.''
ON MULKEY: Brooke Stoehr has a lot of respect for Mulkey, who has won a national championship as a head coach, assistant coach and player. ''Her success speaks for itself,'' said Stoehr, fondly remembering the coach who recruited her. ''I wasn't happy when she left, but happy for her and the opportunity she had. Obviously, it's turned out extremely well for her.''
COMEBACK KIDS: Northwestern has come back from double-digit deficits in four of its victories since Feb. 11. All of those games were away from home, three on the road, and then in the Big Ten tournament.
LONG GAPS: Baylor will play its first game in 11 days, since the Big 12 tournament championship game March 9, but that's not the longest gap between games for the teams in Waco. Arkansas last played March 6 in the SEC tournament, and Northwestern's last Big Ten tournament game was March 7. Northwestern State played last Sunday.