Mark Kellogg, Caitlin Clark, & the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament

Caitlin Clark.  It’s been all Caitlin Clark this year in NCAA women’s basketball. 

The star guard from Iowa is considered the best player in the history of the women’s game.  Clark became the all-time leading scorer in women’s college basketball in February, launching a 3-pointer from the logo in Iowa City for the record.  Two weeks later, she broke the NCAA men’s record as well.  Nobody has scored more points in the college game than Caitlin Clark.

Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes, who fell in the 2023 NCAA title game, are looking to send their star off with a national title in 2024.  The 2024 NCAA tournament kicks off next weekend; Iowa is the top seed in Region #2.  Just six wins separate the best player ever from a national championship; a Hollywood ending for Clark has a clear path.

And that path may go through an Austin College Kangaroo.

I wrote about Kangaroo Mark Kellogg (h/t Trisha Kellogg) in 2023.  My job in 2023 was to assist Stephen F. Austin University (Nacogdoches, TX) with its transition into the University of Texas System.  Coach Kellogg’s job in 2023 was the same as in earlier years:  continue the high standard of excellence he had set over the prior seven years at SFA.  After I made an official UT System visit to Nacogdoches a year ago, I wrote the following in an SFA Roo Tale about Kellogg:

“Roo fans have an extra reason to be SFA fans. Ladyjack Head Coach Mark Kellogg is an Austin College Kangaroo.  Since his 2016 arrival in Nacogdoches, Kellogg has led the Ladyjacks to 7 consecutive 23 win seasons and a combined record of 195-55.  Mark Kellogg won the WAC Coach of the Year in 2022, a year that ended with a loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament’s Greensboro Region, a region that included Caitlin Clark and NCAA finalist Iowa.”

“Mark Kellogg played for Coach Bob Mason’s final Roo team in 1995. He then starred for new Roo Coach Chris Oestreich, earning Second Team All-Conference honors in 1996 and leading the 1997 Roos to an American Southwest Conference Championship. Kellogg, who was inducted into the Austin College Athletic Hall of Honor in 2009, graduated as one of Roo basketball’s most productive players ever.  Coach Oestreich had the following to say to me about Kellogg, his star player in Sherman:”

“Coach Oestreich:  When I got to AC in the spring of 1996, Mark was one of about 12 guys I met with. It was obvious from the first meeting he wanted more, wanted the program to be better. He worked hard, had fun, and was great to coach. He finished that year as an All-American. We have stayed in touch, and I have watched his family grow. It has been no surprise that he has been as successful as he has. Mark just always had a different sense of purpose.”

After my return from Nacogdoches to Austin last year, I shared the SFA Roo Tale online.  Within an hour, I got some big Mark Kellogg news from Coach Oestreich that required an immediately update to the story.  West Virginia (WVU) had lured Coach Kellogg to the Big XII Conference.  He and his family were headed to Morgantown, to lead the Mountaineers in 2024.

And what a 2024 it has been.  With Kellogg at the helm, West Virginia finished the season with a 24-7 record and wins over programs like Oklahoma, the Big XII regular season champion.  That effort has earned WVU the #8 seed in Region #2 of the 2024 NCAA Tournament.  With a victory over #9 seed Princeton in the first round, Mark Kellogg and the Mountaineers will likely face Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.  On the very court where Clark launched her record-breaking logo 3-pointer.

Mark Kellogg was asked about a potential matchup against Caitlin Clark by West Virginia media after NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday:

Reporter: “I know you don’t want to look ahead.  But what about the possibility of seeing Iowa in the next round with Caitlin Clark and what she has done for the game?”

Kellogg: “If we are lucky enough to play the matchup, it will be special to play her on that home floor.  She has sold out every arena she has played in all year.  She has changed the game of women’s basketball.  We got plenty of work to do before that.  But that would be a special moment for our team that we would probably remember for a long time.”

When I wrote about Coach Kellogg in 2023, I used SFA’s relative proximity to Caitlin Clark in the NCAA tournament to make the case for his coaching pedigree.  Well now it’s 2024, and we can give RELATIVE PROXIMITY the old HEAVE HO.  Mark Kellogg has raised WVU women’s basketball to new heights, Caitlin Clark has established herself as the best player in history, and the two are on a path to meet on Monday, March 25th in the 2024 NCAA Tournament. 

As Coach Kellogg says, “we got plenty of work to do before that.”  Princeton is a quality opponent in round #1.  But if this WVU-Iowa game happens (which is already sold out), you better believe ol’ Marc will be watching.  Hey Caitlin Clark.  Bad news for you.  You may have to go “throo” a Roo. 

2023:  Mark Kellogg Roo Tale

2024:  Caitlin Clark wins at the buzzer in Iowa City

2024:  Caitlin Clark gets the NCAA record in Iowa City