It’s been a good year so far. Scratch that. It’s been a great year so far.
Baylor fought fiercely through the Battle for Atlantis, knocked off a top-ranked Oregon team, then a dangerous Xavier squad. The comeback against Louisville showed us a lot about the mettle of this year’s squad.
No one saw it coming – our Baylor Bears are ranked second in the country, right alongside our second-ranked Lady Bears team. The Big 12 is dangerous – Texas Tech proved that last night. No one is safe. The odds are stacked squarely against the Bears making a run through the Big 12 undefeated. Kansas is, as always, three steps from beating you. Iowa State is formidable. West Virginia will be out to prove they belong in the conversation among the best in the country, despite a loss to an upstart Texas Tech program.
Writing off an undefeated Big 12 season, this Bears team has proven they have the tools necessary to win the conference. Their endurance and ability to continue to overcome challenges as a team down the stretch will tell us if they have a chance to win it all.
Scott Drew can coach. In fact, he’s gotten consistently better since 2003. Give this year’s Scott Drew our team against Duke in 2010, and we make the Final Four. I believe this year’s team has the tools to make a deep run. They play well – maybe best – with their backs against the wall.
So what happens if we make the Final Four – or better yet, win it all?
We’ve been on the cusp of breaking into the elite college basketball ranks for years. We’ve seen it with the Lady Bears. Coach Mulkey has established Baylor as one of the elite women’s collegiate programs in the country, alongside the likes of UConn, Louisville, and Tennessee. We just haven’t been taken seriously yet. We still suck.
Making a splash in this season’s NCAA Tournament would go a long way towards earning our status as a “Tier I” basketball program. Recruiting – a strength for Scott Drew – would improve. We would get a friendlier look from national sportswriters, a welcome change for Baylor. We wouldn’t be overlooked in preseason rankings the way we were this year. We could put the ludicrous “Scott Drew can’t coach” narrative six feet in the ground where it belongs.
Further still, though, success by our program could have a strong effect at home. Baylor needs a rallying point. Our women’s team served as our uniting flag in 2005. We could use something like that this year. Looking at the broader picture, success in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and football could make a loud statement to the nation that Baylor is here to stay.
Let’s rally around our Bears – both men’s and women’s – as they represent our university to the nation
*Joe Gastler is a regular contributor to BearsIllustrated.com. You can follow him on twitter @josephgastler.