No. 1 Baylor to face Summitt, Tennessee

Baylor’s unbeaten run and star Brittney Griner’s rousing slam

dunk have gotten most of the attention in Des Moines Regional.

And the coaching future of Tennessee’s Pat Summitt after this

season is still up in the air.

Top-seeded Baylor (37-0) faces Summitt and second-seeded

Tennessee (27-8) Monday night in Des Moines for a trip to the Final

Four.

If the Lady Bears win, it could mark the final time Summitt

roams the sidelines after 38 years and 1,098 wins with the Lady

Vols. Summitt announced in August she’d been diagnosed with early

onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, and has not committed to coaching

next season.

About the only folks who aren’t discussing Summitt’s future are

the Lady Vols.

Associate head coach Holly Warlick says Summitt hasn’t discussed

the situation with her or anyone else. Summitt likely won’t come to

a decision until at least a few weeks after the season, so for now

Tennessee is operating as though she’s not leaving.

”We don’t talk about it because we feel that tomorrow’s not a

guarantee for anyone. We’ve taken this whole situation with Pat one

day at a time, one game at a time, and I think (Monday) is no

different,” Warlick said. ”I think she will evaluate it, and

right now I’ll tell you she’s going to be back next year.”

After watching the Lady Bears pound Georgia Tech in the round of

16 on Saturday, Tennessee faces a challenge in handling Griner and

the Lady Bears.

Getting dunked on by Griner was the least of the Yellow Jackets’

concerns, as the Lady Bears led by as many as 38 points over a good

Georgia Tech team before coasting to an 83-68 win.

”We’re just focused right now. We’re on a mission and we’ve got

to keep it that way for the rest of the season,” Baylor forward

Destiny Williams said.

Griner finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, six blocks, two

steals and one attention-getting two-handed dunk, but the Lady

Bears are much more than Griner.

Williams had 18 points against the Yellow Jackets, who were

outscored 54-16 in the paint. Sophomore Odyssey Sims might be among

the best point guards in the country, directing an offense that’s

beating opponents by 27.1 points a game.

”Griner’s going to get her points. But we’ve got to make sure

Odyssey Sims doesn’t go off, the other players, they don’t go off.

Because they’re just as much a part of this 37-0 team (as) Brittney

Griner,” Warlick said. ”We’re going to have to mix it up.”

The Lady Vols are back in the regional finals for their 25th

time in 31 years.

Tennessee has had an up-and-down season.

The Lady Vols have been inconsistent and lost some games they

typically win, such as against Arkansas and South Carolina in

February. They even fell behind by 14 points against 11th-seeded

Kansas in Saturday’s regional semifinal before overwhelming the

Jayhawks with their superior depth and talent.

Tennessee did give Baylor fits on Nov. 27. The Lady Vols led

33-31 in Knoxville at halftime and out-rebounded the Lady Bears by

14 before falling 76-67.

The Lady Bears are three wins away from becoming the first team

in NCAA history from finishing 40-0 – and they’re not afraid of

that pressure either.

”Everybody just says you’re the team to beat. Everybody talks

about the 40-0. Everybody has expectations, and we can choose to

fight you on it or we can choose to embrace it. And because we’re

older now, we have to embrace it. I don’t think we can hide it,”

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.

Tennessee’s seniors have a personal goal beyond just trying to

get their coach back to the Final Four.

The Lady Vols’ senior class will be the first four-year class in

school history to miss the Final Four if they lose to Baylor. But

they’re putting that and Summitt’s future on the backburner and

focusing on the responsibility at hand, beating Baylor.

After all, it’s a task nobody else has completed this

season.

”We just try and stay in the present. We do think about that

stuff off the court. But when it comes to the basketball game,

that’s just what you’re focusing on,” Tennessee forward Alicia

Manning said about Summitt’s future. ”Whatever Coach Summitt plans

to do after this we support her. We’ve had her back this whole

season. She’s such a great person and she’s going leave her legacy

whether it’s this year, next year, five years down the road, 10

years down the road.”