WACO, Texas — No current LSU player has ever faced a Pac-12 team.
The last time the Lady Tigers made a trip out west was in 2013, when they played California in the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.
Don’t worry; LSU coach Nikki Fargas has enough experience for all of her players.
While her basketball roots may be at Tennessee, where she played, Fargas’ first head coaching job was at UCLA. Fargas still keeps a close eye on her former conference, which makes Saturday’s first-round matchup against California even more fun for her.
“Although I've been away, I still watch,” she said. “It's a conference that Stanford with (coach Tara VanDerveer) has always kind of dominated. … I like the fact, though, that we are familiar with the style of play, but (the players) aren't. They haven't played a Pac-12 team, and I think this is another opportunity for them to have a great experience, and we talked about that.”
Fargas had a 6-1 record against Cal while at UCLA.
Misery loves company
NCAA experience won't be much of a factor in Saturday’s game. Neither LSU nor Cal earned a bid in last season’s tournament.
The programs have 27 NCAA tournament appearances between them, but the 2016 season was not among them.
“It’s a neat matchup in that I think both teams are hungry to get back to the level they expect,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “All we’re trying to do … is embrace the moment and be excited to be here because we weren’t last year, and at the same time, be competitive and hungry to win the game.”
'A Louisiana girl'
When Baylor coach Kim Mulkey walked into the coaches’ meeting for the NCAA tournament, she looked around the room before turning to Fargas to ask, “Where’s my son? Y’all didn’t bring him?”
It’s little secret that Mulkey’s son Kramer Robertson is LSU baseball’s starting shortstop, and Mulkey herself grew up about an hour’s drive from Baton Rouge.
As she puts it, “I’m always going to be a Louisiana girl. I’ve told people that from Day One. I don’t care where I am — I’m Louisiana.”
Mulkey said she was in Baton Rouge last weekend watching her son play Wichita State. Now it’s her turn to welcome the Tigers, with her women’s basketball team at Baylor hosting opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.
She’s even pulling for the Lady Tigers — to an extent.
“I always want to see Louisiana schools do good,” she said. “I want to see (LSU) do good. If we meet Monday, I don’t want to see them do good.”