I’ve been thinking a lot, unfortunately, about Kim Mulkey this week. The LSU Tigers got seeded 3 astonishingly! Mega! Last night owned by Ohio State in the second round, lost 79-64 in Baton Rouge. Sometimes, she’d even step so far into the court that she’d put up the screens herself. She will miss Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2008. Neither Mulke nor her former employer had the opportunity to gloat; The program in which all these manifestations appeared was also absent. On Sunday in the second round of the game, the new-look Baylor Bears provided a terrifying lesson in how to lose a basketball game. (Step one: Flip the ball 10 times in the first quarter. Step Two: Enter the second quarter down 16-4. Step Three: Don’t take advantage of your opponent’s long dry spell in the fourth quarter. Step Four: Play the final minutes of one tournament match as if You’ve been saving your energy for the fifth quarter, the rest of us don’t know. Congratulations! South Dakota bothered you.)
Both losses signal disappointing endings to seasons that have been promising for the shows. When Mulki left Baylor For LSU over the summer, she hired her replacement, Nicki Collen, away from the Atlanta Dream, and he wasted little time fiddling with the team’s identity. Her team Baylor played with an open attack and more variety, an aesthetic upgrade from the old Baylor paint. According to her collars’ stats, the team scored 26 percent of its three-point lead this year, up from just 13 percent under Mulke last season. The results were there, too: Baylor won the Big 12 regular-season title, and did so with a rotation of just seven players. (Colin was somewhat screwed up by the previous system’s reliance on high-profile transfers.) WNBA lottery pick Nalissa Smith, in particular, likely thrived under a coach interested in remotely developing the team’s backyard. It was great to watch Coleen take a list that was recruited by someone else and with someone else’s system in mind, and do what she can with it.
It was also kind of weird. While there was something inherently strange about opponent Baylor losing in the second round, there was something strange about the way Baylor lost to South Dakota, relying on a three-ball that wasn’t working in their favour that evening and giving up defensive rebounds below the extension. A quote from Colin at the post-loss press conference that made me laugh – it was And therefore Unlike Baylor who I’m used to: “I think today they were physical. They were really physical. We’re very good.” That doesn’t mean the team coached by Mulke would have won. She has her fair share of tournament embarrassment. But I’m not sure she could have accused so much cleverness.
At LSU this year, Mulke faced a similar challenge, bringing her own system to a roster that wasn’t too small to remove, and trying to restore glory to a program that was unpopular among school promoters. The results definitely exceeded expectations: What a 9-13 team last year went 26-6 this year, thanks to strong senior team play and Mulke’s transfers. a Column in Athletic Today she reported that Mulke raised $1.3 million for the show in her first 10 days on the job, and that, heading into last night’s game, she received “the kind of applause that not even Miles or Ed Orgeron received at the height of her popularity in Baton Rouge.”
In both LSU and Baylor’s cases, the regular season offers reason for optimism, although Mulkey will be the first to temper those expectations. “I see her in college football,” she said at a press conference last month. You’ll see these kids win an exciting bowl game and they’ll go ‘We baaaack! “And the next year they kicked their butts. You won’t come back until you’ve done it at a high level for a while.”
Perhaps one day the war of kings will be settled on the basketball court, when both coaches finally arm themselves with their own players. But I much prefer imagining these shows and fan bases forever doomed to the same unsatisfactory ending, fates intertwined, and one cannot control the other.
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