On Thursday, Baylor won our first NCAA tournament game in 60 years! For only the 6th time in the 102 history of Baylor basketball, our men’s team had 20 wins in one season (it would usually take a couple seasons of wins added together to get that many). This is the sixth time Baylor has ever even made the tournament (1946, 1948, 1950, 1988, 2008, and 2010). Not only did we make the tournament, we were selected as a #3 seed in the South region (practically home court advantage) and the #2 seed Villanova is already out!
What makes all of this more amazing is the fact that the Baylor men’s basketball team went through one of the most horrific tragedies ever faced by a sports team of any kind: one player killed another in June 2003.
In the investigation into the murder ended up revealing all sorts of unethical decision-making and rules violations by the coaches. Still under probation until 2010 and with the former coach in essence banned from the NCAA until 2015, Baylor was incredibly close to receiving the “death penalty” like SMU’s football program, but the administrators acted swiftly to impose punishments while cooperating with the NCAA’s investigation. The former basketball coach, athletic director, and eventually the president of the university were all fired or forced to resign.
The new coach, Scott Drew, was 32 years old at the time he was hired to rebuild a terribly devastated program. Now, we have a legitimate chance to play for the championship (Of course, Duke remains a formidable opponent ahead of us). How was he able to turn the team around so quickly? He recruited fantastic players with a simple promise: if you come to Baylor, you will get to play. A promise easy to keep when the talent pool is so thin.
Will the Bears go as far as the women’s team did in 2005 and win the national championship? Our men’s team lost to Kentucky in the championship game in 1950, so we have had to rely on our women for most of our national championships. I have them down as the winner in my bracket, and for the first time in my lifetime it may actually be possible!
Appropriately enough, if the Baylor men end up playing for the national championship, it will be on Easter weekend. 🙂