5-Things: The Slow Season

The slowest time of year for college sports fans is upon us. With football not even visible on the horizon, and basketball all wrapped up, the time has come for us to take a look at some of the lower profile sports and bide our time till the fall.

1. This really is the worst time of year. No more glimmer of hope coming from spring practice for football, which is now an unbearable 4 months away from being real again. No more March hangover from the Madness. Basketball is gone, at least at the college level. All of the marquee college sports are done. We are left analyzing equestrian (tough loss in the semi-finals for the ladies, as they could not get two miracle come backs in a row), tennis (yeah for more Big 12 championships!) and track and field (isn't our new stadium awesome!!!) as well as a few other sports. The Bears are dominant in most of these sports, if not elite in the nation in most. Softball is ranked in the Top-20, both Tennis squads are in the Top-10. Really every spring sport outside of baseball is a contender in the Big 12.

2. Speaking of baseball, the 15-24 (5-10) Bears have just 1 win in their last 7 Big 12 games. They are just 3-10 since March 28th, and fell to just 3-16 away from home this season. It isn't good for the Bears right now, as their offense has disappeared. They are tied for 7th in the Big 12, ahead of only last place Kansas. Coach Steve Smith, in his 21st season as the skipper for the Bears, is in danger of suffering his 3rd straight losing season at Baylor. Since 2005, the Bears have had a winning record in Big 12 play just one time, a 20-4 record in 2012. Outside of that one outlier of a season, the Bears have been an average team at best.

The all-time winningest coach in Baylor baseball history (as well as Baylor coaching history in all sports) with over 730 wins, Smith finds himself on the hot-seat as his program keeps taking steps backward. The Bears are a young team however, with six of their starting position players being freshmen or sophomores. Baylor has also played an incredibly difficult schedule, with 16 games against ranked teams already played. They had 13 teams scheduled that made the NCAA tournament last year, including 8 conference champions and 5 super-regional teams. With a young team and a difficult schedule, the road was already going to be very bumpy for the Bears in 2015.

3. Still though, this team seems lost. They make so many simply mistakes, either in the field or at the plate. You can blame it on youth, or you can blame it on talent, but whatever it is, it should fall at the feet of the head coach. The Bears are simply not good enough right now to be a contender for Big 12 championships. That is the level that Baylor programs are viewed on now, just like football, softball, tennis, equestrian and basketball. Championships are the expectation, not getting to 10 wins in Big 12 play (which is still a losing record). Honestly, I don't follow college baseball enough to have a strong opinion one way or the other on the fate of Steve Smith. He is an all-time great at Baylor, a man that made the baseball program a pillar of success with few programs at Baylor able to keep up in the early 2000s. Those days seem long gone to me though.

4. Two programs that do not have the issue of not being able to live up to expectations are the men's and women's tennis programs at Baylor. Arguably two of the strongest programs at Baylor, Matt Knoll and Joey Scrivano have turned both of their programs into nationally elite ones. Matt Knoll and his Bears are ranked 2nd in the nation, behind Oklahoma. They secured their 3rd straight Big 12 title this past week, sharing it with the aforementioned Sooners. In his 19th season at Baylor, Knoll has been one of the best coaches in the nation. He has an insane 105-19 record in Big 12 play, and 13 Big 12 titles in those 19 seasons. The 2004 National Championship is the crown jewel of the resume though, and his Bears look to give it another strong push for a 2nd national championship. Standing in their way will probably be the Sooners, a team that has beaten them 3 times already this year. They will more than likely face off for a 4th time at the Big 12 championships, and hopefully again farther along in the NCAA championships.

Not to be outdone by the men though, the women secured an outright Big 12 championship. it is the programs 11th overall and 3rd straight. The 8th ranked Lady Bears are again near the top of the NCAA tennis world, and look to at least match the two Final Four appearances the Lady Bears have had under Scrivano. His 116-10 Big 12 record is even better than Knoll's, as this is by far the top team in the Big 12. While they have not been able to take the final step towards a national championship yet, the Lady Bears are a program any Baylor fan should be proud of.

5. The fact is, the Baylor athletic program is as good as it has ever been. With the success of football the past few years added in, the Bears are at the top of their game when it comes to athletics. AD Ian McCaw has done tremendous work, with hiring the right coaches and keeping the successful ones in place. He has gone out and paid Art Briles, Kim Mulkey, Matt Knoll and company to keep them at Baylor when other programs have shown great interest (and large pocketbooks). McCaw has seen the explosive growth in facilities as well, with McLane Stadium as the crown jewel of his endeavors. Yes, he might have an uncomfortable decision to make when it comes to the baseball program, but your confidence should be incredibly high with McCaw calling the shots.

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