(This was ESPN’s homepage earlier today)
If you’re like me, and you can’t be in Atlanta with Fake Barney to pass the time until the UK/Duke game tonight, you can get through the next few hours by taking in the UK women’s basketball team’s huge game against #1 ranked/defending national champion Baylor. The UK Hoops team squares off against the Bears on ESPN2 starting right now (6:00 p.m.). The game is part of the State Farm Tip-off, the opening game of the women’s basketball season. Kentucky women’s basketball finds itself in the ultimate spotlight for the first time in the program’s history.
ESPN had a great article today (the one featured in the picture above) about how Matthew Mitchell’s team is poised to take the next step in the world of women’s college basketball.
“We want to make this season better than any season we’ve had before,” Kentucky senior guard A’dia Mathies said. “We want to win another SEC championship, make it to the Final Four, hopefully win a national championship. I think we’ve got all the pieces to the puzzle.”
Kentucky will find out exactly where they stand in tonight’s match-up with Baylor, who rolled through all of last year’s season undefeated en route to a national title. Baylor returns a bulk of their line-up, including Brittney Griner, one of the most intriguing and dominating forces to come through the women’s game in quite some time. The game tonight will prove to be a great test and a good measuring stick for the Wildcats to see where they stand now, and where they need to be in order to achieve the lofty goals and expectations they have for themselves.
Following two elite 8 appearances in 3 years, and 3 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, Mitchell has the program and his players hungry to take things a step further. Kentucky women’s basketball has already burst onto the scene as one of the top programs in the country, which is part of the reason they were selected for the spotlight event tonight. But Mitchell knows it’s one thing to become a factor in the national championship picture, and another to actually get there. As Mathies stated before, the pieces are in place. And the messages and goals are not so subtly evident around the UK facilities, serving as a daily reminder to the players of exactly where they want to take this thing.
There’s a glass-enclosed trophy case next to the Kentucky women’s basketball office. In the middle, a big blue pedestal with the UK logo on it and a small sign on top mark the unused space that reads “Reserved for the National Championship.”
Downstairs, next to the locker room, a large banner by the door displays the logo for the 2013 Women’s Final Four in New Orleans. Get the hint? It’s not that subtle.
Tonight is a crucial first step for the Wildcats, on the biggest stage for women’s basketball for the country to see. “We are still trying to become what we think we can become,” Mitchell said. “We are going to dare to be our best. And that sounds like a simple concept, but if we keep the focus here, it’s very effective.”
Good luck to the UK Hoops team as they take on Baylor RIGHT now on ESPN2. Use the comment section to discuss the game amongst yourselves if you so choose. Go Cats.