By Greg DeVries
Thursday’s 74-72 loss to No. 14 Oklahoma State puts Baylor in an awkward place. The NCAA Tournament is coming up, and the Bears don’t know if they will be in the field. Baylor now has to sit on its hands and wait for the bracket to be revealed Sunday.
This team has certainly had some high points this season. Baylor ended Kentucky’s 54-game home winning streak at Rupp Arena against a Wildcats team that is loaded with young talent. Kentucky has since lost freshman center and shot-blocker Nerlens Noel, but the Wildcats finished the regular season 21-10.
The Bears defended home court against the Oklahoma State Cowboys earlier this year in a 10-point victory on Jan. 21. At the time, Oklahoma State had just fallen outside of the rankings, but everyone has since seen the Cowboys’ true talent.
The biggest win of the season came on Saturday against the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks. With the season on the line, Baylor stepped up when it counted and defeated the Jayhawks 81-58. This is the same Kansas team that is currently fighting for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With the high highs also came some low lows. One of the most notable bad losses for the Bears was the Dec. 4 loss to Northwestern. Northwestern came into the Ferrell Center and beat the Bears 74-40. The Northwestern Wildcats finished their season with a 13-19 record and lost 11 of their last 12 games.
The March 4loss to Texas is another blemish that stands out. The Longhorns did play a good part of their schedule without star guard Myck Kabongo, but Texas still finished No. 7 in the Big 12 and couldn’t reach the .500 mark to end the season.
Baylor also only managed to go 2-8 against the five teams above the Bears in the Big 12 standings, and they didn’t manage to get wins against Oklahoma, Iowa State, or Kansas State.
After beating Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament, Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford spoke highly of the Bears when asked if they should make the NCAA Tournament.
“I think it’s easy, yes. Easy,” Ford said. “They won a lot of big games… I don’t know about the numbers things, but if you know basketball and you look at that team, that’s a team that can win a lot of games in the NCAA Tournament.”
Baylor will have to wait and see if the selection committee agrees with Ford, but senior guard Pierre Jackson reflected on what it would feel like if Baylor’s name was not called to play in the NCAA Tournament.
“Of course it’s going to be very disappointing,” Jackson said. “Can’t do nothing about it… That’s how the cards are dealt, and we can’t complain about it.”
Head coach Scott Drew stated his case for Baylor to play in the NCAA Tournament. He also pointed out that the two games that Baylor lost to Oklahoma State came down to the wire.
“Who has recently beaten Kentucky in Rupp [Arena], and who has beaten Kansas?” Drew said. “I think we can beat anybody in the country. That means we can play in the Final Four.”
The bracket for the NCAA Tournament will be revealed on Sunday starting at 5 p.m. Until then, all the Bears can do is wait and hope.