1. March and the subsequent March Madness is my favorite time of year. I love college basketball, and will pretty much watch any game going on at the time. However, this year was different, especially on the men's side, that gets the bulk of my attention. With the Bears bowing out in painful fashion in just their first game, a bad taste was left in my mouth. Gone were the desires to watch the Xavier/Ole Miss game to scout the Bears next opponent. Gone was watching Wisconsin and Arizona advance and see what weaknesses the two top seed in the West Region had that could be exploited by my Baylor Bears. I still watched those games, but not with the fervor of someone preparing for battle, so to speak. However, it wasn't like the years that the Bears were on the sidelines of the grand NCAA tournament. Now, I just kept saying to myself, "I would have loved to see the Bears with a shot against Team X". Baylor was too good, and too balanced of a team for 99% of the season to lose the way they did. However, they lost 3 of their last 5 games, with their two wins coming over Texas Tech and West Virginia.
2. What does that tell us about the Bears? Did they peak too early? I think their defense did. Their tenacity and aggressiveness on defense seemed to tilt to far in the risk/reward column. They would gamble too much, and take those extra chances to often. We saw that in both of their wins, where bad gambles led to bad rotations, which led to open 3-pointers that were usually made. Defense wasn't the reason they lost to Georgia State. You hold a team to 57 points, you should win. You out-rebound a team 40-22, you should win. You turnover the ball 21 times and finish -15 in turnover margin...you should lose and the Bears did.
3. The Final Four is all set for the men, and two games are left tonight to set it for the women. The weekend was full of amazing basketball, led by the Notre Dame and Kentucky men squaring off Saturday evening. A tremendous comeback win by the undefeated, but not perfect Wildcats was finished when Jerian Grant's off-balance double-pumped three-pointer from the corner was long. The Wildcats had survived by far their stiffest test in tournament play. They won with their C-game, against a team playing very good. Honestly, this is the best basketball team I have seen since the Bobby Hurley/Christian Laettner/Grant Hill Duke Blue Devils. Their size all over the court is just amazing, with great for the NBA size at every position. They are appointment television right now, with two games left to go 40-0.
Wisconsin, Duke and Michigan State are the other Final Four teams facing off in Indianapolis. All four feature tremendous coaches, with at least three as Hall-of-Famers. It is a tough call to me to pick the best coach out of the four. Mike Izzo would probably get my vote, as this is the third 5th seed or lower he has taken to the Final Four. The Spartans are a 7th seed this year, having found their way late in the season, even advancing to the Big 10 championship game where they were beaten by Wisconsin. The Badgers will get first crack at Kentucky, and they might have the offensive fire power to get it done. I still believe that a tremendous offensive team, like Notre Dame, is the type that can beat Kentucky. With Duke on the other side of the bracket, this could be setting up for a massive battle between the two top teams pretty much all year.
4. Last night, the Lady Bears season came to an end, again at the hands of the Notre Dame Lady Irish. Instead of a blowout loss though, this one was close throughout, with the Lady Bears leading for most of the first half. The game was tight, as both teams traded basket after basket. Tough shots were going in for both Notre Dame and Baylor, until the Lady Bears stopped hitting those tough shots. Too bad Notre Dame kept hitting them, and that is what got them the win. That and some tremendous work on the offensive glass late to close out the win. After the game, Baylor star Nina Davis was in tears, feeling as she let her teammates down. 26 points and 13 rebounds is not letting your team down. However, you have to love that passion and desire, and hope that the Bears can build on this. With just 1 key rotation player graduating, a top-5 recruiting class with much needed size, and an all-conference caliber guard being eligible after sitting out the 2014-15 season, the Lady Bears have a chance to be even better in 2015-16. I would not be one bit shocked if they were the #1 team sometime next season.
5. The Lady Bears aren't the only team that will be looking at a possibly stronger squad next year. Scott Drew and his Bears will have two All-Big 12 forward leading the way in Ricardo Gathers and Taurean Waller-Prince. The big question will be how they handle the loss of Kenny Chery and Royce O'Neale, two of their key ball handlers and passers last season. Lester Medford is an obvious candidate to step into the lead point guard role. However, Baylor will be bringing in several guards that could fit into the rotation, with Jake Lindsey and King McClure both being possible point guards, and Wendell Mitchell being more of a pure under-sized shooting guard. With another big man in Joseph Acuil coming in to give the Bears more depth down low, if Baylor can get good point guard play, they should be even better with Gathers and Prince leading the way/