Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Forty and Oh!

We interrupt the normal biblical/theological musings to talk about some really important stuff.

Basketball.  Baylor University Basketball.  Oh yeah.

Last night the Baylor women won their second national championship (first was in 2005), concluding an undefeated season.  For the first time ever, an NCAA basketball team finished 40-0.  No team--men's or women's, had ever done that.

What a year this has been for Baylor sports.  The men's team reached the Elite Eight for the second time in three years with a final ranking of 8th.  The football team was one of the most exciting in the nation, finishing 12th in the nation and producing their first-ever Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin, III--RG3, who will probably end up being the next Redskins quarterback.  That's in the major sports.  Baylor athletics is one of the top programs in the nation, producing nationally ranked teams--and some national champions--in a number of lesser-known sports.  (Their track team, which has been one of the best in the nation for decades, is now coached by a friend of mine from college days, Todd Harbour.)

But back to the women.  It's remarkable how women's basketball has changed since I was in college.  I remember playing some pick-up games with some of the starters on the women's team.  I'll never forget the first time I played against Faith Cedarholm, the team's best player.  She was about 6' 1", about the tallest on the team, and we ended up guarding each other.  I wasn't sure where to put my hand when I was guarding her with her back to me.  If my hand accidentally went too low, would she turn around and slap me?

She got the ball, put her shoulder into me, and scored.  Oh, OK, if that's how it is, I'm guarding you like I would anyone.  Which I shouldn't have even questioned.  Faith was good, and she held her own against us guys--but we weren't playing Division 1 basketball for a major university.

Today's woman's game has changed.  The women are bigger, for one thing.  Baylor's best player is Brittney Griner, who is 6' 8", but that's an anomaly.  But as the other players were announced last night, I paid attention to their heights: Baylor's starters went 5' 7", 5' 11", 6' 2", 6' 2", and 6' 8", Notre Dame's 5' 9", 5' 10", 5' 11", 5' 11", and 6' 2".  Those are tall women; the guards would have been forwards or centers in my day.  And they are skilled--they are great ball-handlers and great shooters.  My 20-yr.-old self couldn't last five minutes on the court with them.  They are really good.

And fun to watch.  Baylor returns their best players next year, including Player of the Year Griner, and they have a great recruiting class coming in.  Another 40-0  season is too much to ask.

But it's not outside the realm of possibility either.  Sic'em Bears!

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