Football may rule the Lone Star State, but the NCAA women’s tournament is filled with mainstays in the climax of the season.
Baylor and Texas A&M look to add another national title to their latest collection while the Texas Longhorns hope to return to prominence when the tournament gets underway Sunday.
Baylor (29-4), a No. 2 seed, takes on 15th-seeded Western Kentucky (24-8), Texas A&M (24-8), a third seed, hosts 14 seed North Dakota (22-9) and Texas (21-11), a fifth seed, plays 12 seed Pennsylvania (22-6).
Baylor will host its game on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the Ferrell Center, A&M will play Sunday at 8 p.m. at Reed Arena and Texas will play Sunday at 2 p.m. in College Park, Md.
The Lady Bears won the national title in 2005 and 2012 but had to change their style of play drastically this season.
The Lady Bears lost All-American Brittney Griner to the WNBA, but senior guard Odyssey Sims has stepped up to fill in the void on the offensive side of the court. Baylor is relying much more on pick-and-rolls set up for Sims and she averages 28.4 points and 4.6 assists per game, both team bests.
If Baylor is going to make it to the Final Four, it will be a well-deserved trip to Nashville, Tenn.
Baylor will likely get by Western Kentucky and host the California-Fordham winner, but from there must travel to the Purcell Pavilion, unbeaten Notre Dame’s home floor, for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
The Lady Bears could match up with No. 10 Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and No. 2 Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. An Elite Eight game against No. 17 Purdue is another possibility.
The Aggies won their first national title in 2010 and looks to put up another banner in their second season in the Southeastern Conference, but like Baylor, that road has its bumps.
A&M plays in the Lincoln bracket and will likely get by North Dakota at home before likely facing No. 18 Gonzaga in the second round.
The Aggies could meet No. 9 Duke and No. 23 DePaul in the Sweet 16, although Duke is missing two of its top players in Chelsea Gray and Alexis Jones.
A&M will likely have to play either defending national champion and top-ranked Connecticut or a true road game against No. 13 Nebraska to get to the Final Four.
The Longhorns are making their 27th overall NCAA tournament appearance and won 11 conference games for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
But the best way to judge whether head coach Karen Aston has brought the program back to the standard set by hall of fame mentor Jody Conradt is to see how far the Longhorns make it in the tournament.
If Texas, which is in the Louisville bracket, defeats Penn, it’ll likely face No. 11 Maryland on its home floor to get to the second week of the tournament.
Should Texas make it to the Sweet 16, the Longhorns will likely meet another orange-clad traditional power in Tennessee in that round. Another possible scenario has UT meeting No. 25 USC in that round.
The Longhorns face the possibility of meeting No. 4 Louisville and Big 12 rival and regular season co-champion West Virginia in the Elite Eight.
Texas split the regular season series with the seventh-ranked Mountaineers, with each team winning on its own home floor. Texas lost at Tennessee 75-61 earlier this season.