By Stephen Hawkins
AP Basketball Writer
WACO, Texas — Baylor is a No. 1 seed in the women’s NCAA tournament for the fourth time in the past six years, and in a region that will finish only about 100 miles from its campus.
Coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears (33-1) are the top seed in the Dallas Region. Baylor this season won the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles for the sixth consecutive year.
Pac-12 champion Oregon State (28-4), which has won 18 of its last 19 games, is the No. 2 seed in the Dallas Region. Louisville (25-7) is the No. 3 seed and Texas A&M (21-9), the Lady Bears’ former Big 12 rival, the No. 4 seed.
Baylor plays its tournament opener against Idaho (24-9) at home on Friday. With two wins at home, where they have swept first- and second-round NCAA games while hosting four of the previous five seasons, the Lady Bears would advance to the Sweet 16 for the eighth consecutive year. That round would be at the Dallas Mavericks’ home arena
When Baylor was a No. 1 seed for the first time in 2011, the Lady Bears lost to Texas A&M in the Dallas Region final. They were also a No. 1 seed in 2012, when they had their 40-0 national championship season, and a top seed again in 2013, when they lost to Louisville in the Sweet 16.
That was the second time Louisville beat Baylor in the Sweet 16. The Cardinals were national runner-ups to Connecticut in both 2009 and 2013 after beating Baylor in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Baylor fans crowded into a room with the team at the Ferrell Center to watch the selection show Monday night, and they moaned when both Louisville and Texas A&M were revealed as part of the Dallas Region.
The Lady Bears made it to a regional final each of the last two seasons, both ending with losses to Notre Dame.
The only way for there to be a third consecutive postseason matchup between Baylor and the Fighting Irish would be if both make it to the national championship game April 5 in Indianapolis.
Oregon State will open the Dallas Region at home against Troy, and Louisville plays Central Arkansas. Texas A&M, now in the Southeastern Conference, hosts Missouri State, which is in its first NCAA Tournament since 2006.
In the other first-round game Friday in Waco, No. 8 seed St. John’s (23-9) takes on Auburn (19-12), back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
The Lady Bears, who also were national champions in 2005, are in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in Mulkey’s 16 seasons.
Baylor made the WNIT final in 2003, the only year under Mulkey without an NCAA appearance. The Lady Bears lost at home to Auburn then and have won 164 consecutive home games against non-ranked opponents since.