Baylor women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey watched her players cut down the nets Monday after the Lady Bears defeated Tennessee in an Elite Eight game.
She saw smiles and small celebrations, laughter and joking.
But she saw zero contentment.
"We're happy, and we enjoy it, but we aren't overdoing it," Mulkey said. "And that's not something we talk about. That's not something that I say, 'Get excited, but don't get too excited.' Get as excited as you want. But as I observe them and watch them, you can tell: been here, done that. We want to fry a bigger fish."
While Baylor's season has been special -- the Bears are 38-0 and have dominated opponents in the NCAA Tournament -- the year will be tainted without a national championship.
"We got over the hump, made it to the Final Four, but the work's not over yet," Baylor center Brittney Griner said. "Two games. We have to get out there, and we are anxious to get out there. Finish what we started."
With that determination, the Bears headed to Denver to face Stanford today in a top-heavy Final Four that includes all four No. 1 seeds.
"We have to stay focused," sophomore guard Odyssey Sims said. "We have to do all of the little things right, because if you take off a play, it could cost us the game."
Through four NCAA Tournament games, Baylor's closest matchup was a 15-point win against Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16. Griner is averaging 24 points, nine rebounds and six blocks a game. But she isn't the only Baylor player shining.
Sims (15.5 points), Destiny Williams (12 points) and Kimetria Hayden (10.8 points) are all averaging in double figures. Much of their success, however, still goes back to Griner.
"They triple-team her, and they forget about everyone else on the floor," Williams said. "She's very unselfish, and she will pass it to you if you are open."
As a freshman in 2010, Williams watched her team lose to Connecticut in the Final Four. Last year, the top-seeded Bears were upset by eventual national champion Texas A&M in the Elite Eight. Baylor is set on erasing those painful losses with a title in Denver.
"We have to come out and continue to do what got us here in the first place," Williams said. "We don't take anything for granted. We come out and play basketball like we should. We've never forgotten what losing felt like last year."
Baylor's first task at the Final Four will be stopping the Cardinal. Stanford can challenge Baylor in the post with sisters Nnemkadi (senior) and Chiney (sophomore) Ogwumike each averaging double digit points.
"They work very well together on the high-low," Griner said. "On the offensive boards, they are going to crash."
But Stanford's sisters are also a threat on the perimeter.
"They can take you off the dribble, and they have nice moves," Sims said. "They are going to be a big challenge for our post players. Our guard play is going to have to step up and help a lot. I think it's going to be a great game, and we will be ready."
The Bears haven't played a close game in more than a month. In their last win, Tennessee made a few runs but wasn't close in the final minutes. But Mulkey expects her players to be ready if today's game against Stanford or a potential national championship game is decided on the final possession.
"I don't anticipate any of these games to be any different than competitive close games," Mulkey said. "These games aren't going to be blowouts by any imagination, I don't feel, in any direction, no matter who wins the games."
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760