Trying to Embrace the NIT

The Bears are going dancing, but not to the big party, more like the dance with no DJ, but a juke box setup with an IPod on shuffle. It might not be the big one, but at least we are invited.

Not-Invited-Tournament. Not the tournament we expected, but a tournament nonetheless. Not that happy, but not that upset. A lot of "Not's" are going around these days about the Baylor Bears basketball team. One "not" that isn't correct though…not still playing. There is still basketball games left to play for Coach Drew. Even more importantly than that, at least to me, is that there is more time left in the season. More practices and more reps for players that will be depended on to assume larger roles in 2013-2014.

It took me a few days to get over the heartbreak of the 2013 season. The way we lost the last game just seemed to be too perfect for this iteration of the Bears. They were tantalizing close so many times this year, but yet so far away. They would play terrible for 8, 10 or 20 minute stretches, and then just flip a switch to some of the best basketball you can imagine. The Oklahoma State game personified their season perfectly. Slow start with a lack of interest or effort or any other buzzward that means a team came out and laid a giant egg on the court. However, late in the half, the energy improved, though the results were still trending downward.

In the second half though, wow. The defense was phenomenal, and the Bears offense found its sweet spot, which was pretty much the same all year. Get the ball to Pierre Jackson in the pick and roll and get out of his way. It would be almost impossible for any one player to carry the offense all game, every game the way we truly needed Pierre to carry ours. But when we just simply spread out, screened for him and got the heck out of the way, our offense was much more effective and powerful.

Behind Jackson, the Bears clawed back into the game, finally tying Oklahoma State at 72 with 20 seconds left. We all know how it ended. Of course, it was an excoriating ending, and surprisingly a new way for this team to lose, in a season full of new ways to lose. The Bears were just 1-8 in games decided by 5 points or less. They fell short of furious comebacks against College of Charleston (Trailed by 6 with 1:10 left, had a shot to tie but missed), Northwestern (Trailed by 18 with 10 minutes to go, got lead down to 3 with 23 seconds left, NU made free throws to hang on), Oklahoma (Trailed by 16 with 13 minutes to go, got it down to 1 with 1:33 left), and Oklahoma State (Trailed by 14 with 7:43 left, lost in overtime).

The Bears complete lack of consistency reached epidemic proportions this year. Every team goes through up and down, but few do through them as quickly and violently as the Bears did. They did not go through up and down weeks, but would seem to switch from good to bad and back against between media timeouts. Is that a failure of the coaching staff? The leadership on the court? The chemistry of the team? Just plain old unlucky? The lunar cycle? Heck, maybe all of it is to blame, that makes more sense to me that laying upon the feet of just one area. Whatever the cause, something was amiss with these Bears pretty much all year.

So here we are, on the outside looking in the back window of the cool party, getting ready to go down the street to something not nearly as fun, but at least we aren't home alone doing nothing. There is at least that, and I am sure every other program in the state of Texas would be willing to trade spots with us. I know that makes some fans feel better (we are better than UT and aTm…WOOHOO), but it moves my needle very little. I don't care about other schools, I care about Baylor. I care that I get to watch more college basketball involving my favorite team and alma mater, even if it is at the uncool dance (but not like the lame junior high dance whatever the CBI is pretending to be).

I care that we will have at least another few days of practice time for guys like Rico Gathers, Deuce Bello, Gary Franklin and everyone else coming back next year that will be depended on to carry a larger role and step into supporting roles or starring roles. So bring on Long Beach State this Wednesday. Let's beat The Beach and move on to face Arizona State or Detroit, and maybe even a return trip to Lexington awaits us against Kentucky. Its more basketball, and honestly, who can really truly complain about that.

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