Baylor women in usual place; Seminoles are stepping up

Mar 25, 2016 - 8:19 PM DALLAS (AP) Being in back-to-back Sweet 16s is a new experience for Florida State. Baylor has been there, done that in the women's NCAA Tournament - now for the eighth year in a row.

''To be a top 10 program, you have to be able to go to back-too-back Sweet 16s,'' said Seminoles coach Sue Semrau, who is in her 19th season. ''So this is a big step for us in our growth and we hope to continue.''

For the Big 12 champion Lady Bears (35-1), getting to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament has become the norm under coach Kim Mulkey. They have won 22 games in a row this season, and only once in the past six years failed to win their Sweet 16 game.

That is the challenge Florida State (25-7) faces Saturday in the Dallas Mavericks' home arena only about 100 miles from the Baylor campus. Less than a week after winning at Texas A&M to advance, the ACC Seminoles are back in Texas where the Final Four will be played next year.

At least there is some experience on this stage for Florida State after making it to the Elite Eight last March.

''It's not overwhelming,'' Semrau said Friday. ''It's not something that is like `Wow! Here for the first time,' or haven't been her for a while.''

Baylor players all season have worn ''Eight is Not Enough'' bracelets after losing to Notre Dame in regional finals the past two years. They opened this year's NCAA tournament with 30-point wins over Idaho and Auburn.

The team has been strengthened by the addition of former Duke transfer Alexis Jones and two talented freshman posts to the postseason-experienced 1-2 punch of Nina Davis and Niya Johnson.

When asked if her team is playing its best ball of the season, Mulkey was quick with her answer.

''Yes,'' she said, before being asked to elaborate. ''After the Oklahoma State loss the first game of conference, I saw a team that got better and better and better. ... I've never walked off a court where I thought our team didn't improve this year. That's hard sometimes to say.''

Some things to watch when fifth-seeded Florida State and top seed Baylor play in the Dallas Region:

A LOT ALIKE: Baylor and Florida State routinely score in the 70s and grab more than 40 rebounds. They shoot well, get a few steals and have big players who can run the floor. ''They score like we do in many positions,'' Mulkey said. ''I think it will be a very entertaining game offensively, and I hope that our defense is just a tad better than them.''

Semrau said what sets Baylor apart is its passing. ''They can pick you apart if you make mistakes, and certainly that is something very special in the game of basketball, much less women's basketball,'' she said.

CONFIDENT `NOLES: Florida State senior Adut Bulgak said she has never seen a lack of confidence in her team, especially when drawing off the success of last season. ''It's been a building process with everything,'' said junior guard Leticia Romero, the former Kansas State transfer. ''I think we've reached that point where we have come together.''

LAST TIME: The only previous meeting was three years ago - a second-round NCAA game Baylor won 85-47 at home with All-Americans Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims. The Lady Bears then lost to Louisville.

IN THE BUILDING: Baylor is 7-1 at the American Airlines Center, sweeping Big 12 tournaments there in 2013 and 2015. The Lady Bears won a Sweet 16 game over Green Bay there in 2011, but lost in the Elite Eight to Texas A&M.

PRESIDENTIAL PICK: Remember, Baylor is the only No. 1 seed in the women's NCAA Tournament that President Barack Obama didn't pick to go to the Final Four in his bracket. The president had the Lady Bears and Florida State getting to this point, and picked the Seminoles for his ''one big upset.''

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