OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Big 12 women’s tournament followed the chalk, resulting in what almost seemed like a preordained conclusion: West Virginia-Baylor Part III.
After separating themselves from the pack during the regular season, the co-champion Mountaineers (29-3) and Lady Bears (28-4) will play a high-stakes, top-10 rubber game for the league tournament championship. Tip-off is 9 p.m. on FoxSports1.
Baylor won 78-62 in Morgantown on Jan. 8 behind Odyssey Sims’ 48-point outburst. The Big 12 player of the year scored 39 in the rematch on March 2, but was undone by her 10 turnovers—one that led to WVU’s go-ahead basket in a 71-69 upset that spoiled Baylor’s senior night.
“It’s going to be a dog fight,” said No. 7-ranked West Virginia’s senior guard Christal Caldwell. “Everyone wants it bad. This could be our first chance to win a conference tournament championship, and Baylor, they want us again.
“Odyssey is going to come out strong. She let one go with her team on senior night, so I’m sure that’s still on her mind.”
Sims scored only 17 points—13 below her nation-leading average—in No. 9 Baylor’s 65-61 semifinal victory over Oklahoma State. A 6-of-22 shooting performance fueled questions of whether defenses have completely re-engineered themselves to stop her.
“I think it has to do with her being guarded by everybody on the other team,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. “She sees it all. I think she’ll lose her composure some, but she doesn’t lose it near as much as I probably would as a player.
“You think of the players that are up for Player of the Year, the positions that they play—they don’t see that kind of defense. They don’t see three and four players, fresh players, come at her and then a double-team here and a triangle-and-two and a box-and-one.”
West Virginia coach Mike Carey, after his team eliminated Texas 67-60, said he hadn’t decided on what defenses to throw at Sims. “Well, we haven’t covered her yet, so I guess I don’t have a plan,” he said.
After Stanford was upset in the Pac-12 tournament, there’s a chance Monday’s Big 12 winner might be elevated to an NCAA No. 1 seed. Mulkey hopes the Big 12 teams are seeded well because of the grind associated with playing a round-robin leauge schedule.
“We know everything about each other—you don’t even have to do a scouting report,” she said. “So when the NCAA sits down to do their selection, they need to keep that in mind. What you hope happens is the selection committee understands, ‘Wow, let’s look at this league they’re in and how tough it is’ and give us a lot of good seeds.”
Under a contract extension Carey received in January, the coach has netted a $10,000 bonus for reaching the tournament final tonight and the figure grows to $15,000 if WVU wins.
Carey’s new deal—which pays him a $420,000 salary this season and escalates to $670,000 by 2020—already landed him a $15,000 bonus for WVU’s first-place finish in the Big 12 regular season and another $15,000 for earning Big 12 coach of the year.
There’s more bonuses ahead: He’ll earn $10,000 for the Mountaineers appearing in the NCAA women’s tournament, $15,000 if they advance to the second round and a ladder of incentives up to $50,000 for winning the national title.