Haters gonna hate.
They’re going to hate Brittney Griner, just like they hated Wilt Chamberlain, just like they hated Shaquille O’Neal, just like they hated all the great post players.
They’re going to hate Baylor, for its athletes and its attitude, for winning three straight Big 12 titles, for going 127-16 in the Griner years.
They’re going to hate Kim Mulkey, for screaming at her assistant coaches when her players screw up, for screaming at the officials when she’s up 35, for wearing some of the weirdest outfits ever to grace a basketball sideline.
Haters, sadly, are going to hate.
And maybe they’ll be happy if the Bears get upset in the NCAA tournament. Sure, they’re the heavy favorites, and they’ll win the first two, and maybe three, without digging much deeper than a rake on hardscrabble Texas clay, but after that, strange things could happen. Odyssey Sims could get hurt again; Griner could get in foul trouble; it could be one of those nights when the stars align and Baylor just can’t put away an inferior team and some miraculous shot sends the Bears back to Waco.
And then it will all be about how Baylor wasn’t really good enough, about how Griner got what she deserved, and about how maybe Mulkey will finally get a personal tailor who has a clue.
So right now, in the wake of that overwhelming win over a decent Iowa State team in the Big 12 tournament title game, let’s just sit back and try to appreciate what we’ve seen.
Without doubt, Brittney Griner is the greatest female college basketball player ever. You can talk about Cheryl Miller all you want, or Diana Taurasi, or Jackie Stiles, or whoever you choose, but the fact remains that none of them were 6-8. None of them dominated the game on both ends as Griner has done. None of them came close to setting a defensive record; none of them went 71-1 in their last two seasons.
Of course, Griner isn’t perfect, and naturally there’s talk that a woman of her size and physical gifts maybe isn’t 100 percent female – but that’s hater talk. And you know, it doesn’t really matter.
On the court, where it counts, Griner has done everything. She was far from a finished product when she arrived in Waco, but now she’s a much better player. Credit Mulkey for that, certainly, but credit Griner too. In the demolition of Iowa State, she scored at will, but she passed too – and of course she blocked shots. And for a woman who is criticized for lack of rebounding, she averages more than nine a game, and last year was 21 rebounds short of averaging a double-double.
Griner’s gotten better every year, which ironically only added fuel to the hater’s fire, but it’s also true her team got better with her. Mulkey felt the Bears deserved more all-Big 12 love than they got, and really, they did.
The Big 12 is a damned good league, as shown by the performance of Texas A&M, Nebraska and Missouri when they moved on this year. Iowa State isn’t half bad, Anna Prins is as smooth a shooter as you’ll see in a 6-6 woman, and the Cyclones should show well in the NCAA tournament.
Oklahoma, Texas Tech (finally) and Oklahoma State all won at least 21 games, and both West Virginia and Kansas are solid teams. Five, maybe six, will wind up in the NCAA tourney, and as long as they don’t run into Baylor, they could win some games.
But sooner or later, there will be Baylor, and not with just Griner, and not with just Sims. Brooklyn Pope, an undersized but extremely athletic power forward, averaged 10.4 points a game and shot 55.2 percent from the field despite having no perimeter game. Destiny Williams grabbed a rebound every three minutes she was on the floor, but couldn’t put up huge numbers because of the depth of talent in Waco.
Jordan Madden and Kimetria Hayden are both superb defenders, and excellent shooters – did you know that Sims, at 46.5 percent, has the worst shooting percentage of any Baylor Bear who played more than 14 minutes a game?
Oh, and Baylor’s average margin of victory was 27.1 points.
Finally, while we’re doing stats, here’s one last Griner factoid: She had 79 assists and 58 turnovers. Mull on that for a while, and consider that most women’s basketball teams have more turnovers than assists, and here’s a 6-8 woman who blocks shots, shoots, defends, rebounds, and oh by the way, passes better than most team’s point guards.
Haters gonna hate – but you know, sometimes they just look stupid.
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