The brackets have been set and for the first time in program history Baylor Men’s Basketball will be competing in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. While this milestone should not be overlooked, Baylor fans have been spoiled recently by major tournament success and expect results in March from their beloved Bears. Here’s a look at where those expectations come from.
2008 NCAA Tournament
It took four years, but Scott Drew shocked the Big 12 and the nation as he led the Bears to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years. The second appearance since 1950, Baylor Basketball earned a No. 11 seed in the NCAA West Regional and faced off against No. 6 Purdue. Unfortunately, the Boilermakers were too much for the Bears’ defense, defeating the upstart Baylor squad 90-79.
2010 NCAA Tournament
The 2008-09 season ended with a championship game appearance in the NIT, but the Bears sought more. The 2009-10 season saw the emergence of Ekpe “The Nightmare” Udoh, who anchored a stout Baylor defense and helped lead his team to No. 3 seed in the South Regional. The opening round matchup against No. 14 Sam Houston State was not a cakewalk, however. With less than five minutes left, the Bears made a final push and defeated the Bearkats 68-59 in Tweedy Carter’s backyard of New Orlean’s, LA.
Coming off of the program’s first NCAA Tournament win in 60 years, the Bears marched on to defeat No. 11 Old Dominion (68-76) and blew out No. 10 Saint Mary’s (72-49) in the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance in the modern era. The Elite Eight matchup with No. 1 Duke has since gone down in Baylor Basketball lore, but not for the right reasons.
In front of a home crowd in Houston, TX, Scott Drew’s team went back and forth with the heavily favored Blue Devils all game. Duke began to pull away in the final three minutes, but not before Quincy Acy attempted to attack the rim with 4:37 left in the game. The refs, though, whistled Acy for a charge on Brian Zoubek (one of the worst calls in recent NCAA Tournament history) and Duke went on to hit a three point shot on the other end, swinging the game by five points and propelling the eventual national champion Duke to the Final Four.
2012 NCAA Tournament
The 2010-11 season ended in disappointment, as the Bears did not see any postseason play, but the blessing of the even year seasons continued in 2012. Again earning a three seed in the South, Baylor began its opening round game against South Dakota State poorly. Yet, after giving up 12 straight points to the Jackrabbits to start the game, the Bears, decked out in flashy neon uniforms, pulled away and put South Dakota State away 68-60. Behind nine threes from sharpshooter Brady Heslip in the round of 32 versus Colorado, Baylor easily handled the No. 11 Buffs 63-80.
The Bears’ second Sweet Sixteen in three years saw a matchup with No. 10 Xavier, but the Musketeers could not withstand a determined Baylor squad and dropped out of the tournament with a 70-75 loss. The Bears went on to face the eventual national champion Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight, and while it did not result in a victory for Baylor, it did put the program in special company with Kansas, Butler, Kentucky, and North Carolina as the only teams with two Elite Eight appearances in the last three seasons.
2014 NCAA Tournament
The curse of odd years continued, as the Bears failed to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2013. However, the squad did go on to win the NIT, which gave a young team plenty of postseason experience to make noise in the 2014 tournament.
No. 6 Baylor opened the NCAA Tournament in front of a home crowd in San Antonio, TX, pulling away from No. 11 Nebraska in the second half. With No. 3 Creighton waiting in the Round of 32, few in the national media gave Baylor a chance. However, behind one of the best shooting performances in recent memory, the Bears blew the doors off of the Bluejays, ending Doug McDermott’s storied career with an 85-55 victory.
With the programs third Sweet Sixteen appearance in five seasons, the Bears were riding high. The glory did not last, though, as the Bears fell to No. 2 Wisconsin, ending their season.