Sports Take: It’s all or nothing for Bears and Lady Bears in March

RIGHT OFF THE GLASS Baylor sophomore guard Jake Lindsey goes for a layup in a game against the Kansas State Wildcats on Jan. 25 in Waco. The Bears won the game 91-49. Baylor ended the season with a record of 25-6 before losing to Kansas State in the first round of the Big 12 Championship tournament. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

In recent years, the postseason has not been kind to the Baylor men’s and women’s basketball teams, but both hope to turn their luck around as March Madness starts this weekend.

Bears

When the men’s basketball team made the NCAA tournament for the first time under head coach Scott Drew in 2008, they were a No. 11 seed and fell in the first round to Purdue.

Those kind of finishes became a thing of the past, however, when Drew brought his team back to the tournament in 2010 and 2012 and led them all the way to the Elite Eight, losing to the eventual champion both times. In 2014, the Bears reached the Sweet 16 after a dominant upset of No. 3 seed Creighton before dropping a game to a Final Four team in the No. 2 seed Wisconsin.

In 2015, the Bears broke a trend of only qualifying for the tournament in even-numbered years as Baylor wound up as a No. 3 seed to make its first ever back-to-back tournament appearances.

The story ended quickly, though, with No. 14-seed Georgia State capping a miracle season with a 57-56 upset of the Bears in the round-of-64 behind a game-winning shot from coach’s son R.J. Hunter.

With Baylor returning more than enough to make another run, they were determined to end the season on a better note. The Bears succeeded in qualifying for the tournament as a No. 5 seed, but they were once again bounced in the first round, this time by guard Makai Mason and the Yale Bulldogs.

Fast forward to this season. Baylor, so far, has had arguably its best season yet. The Bears made the tournament field for a fourth-straight season and will play as a No. 3 seed in the East region.

The players have already expressed their motivation to extend lone senior Ishmail Wainright‘s Baylor career by winning multiple games in the tournament.

At this point, it seems as though many expect the Bears to falter early. That should only further motivate them to perform at a high level.

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Lady Bears

The Lady Bears are held to different standard under head coach Kim Mulkey. Having won two National Championships on three Final Four appearances, the Lady Bears are expected to be one of the last teams standing at the end of the season.

The past three years have seen Baylor make it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling. Two of those losses came to No. 1-seed Notre Dame, while last year’s was an upset loss to No. 2-seed Oregon State.

The current senior class of Nina Davis, Alexis Jones, Alexis Prince and Khadijiah Cave is the winningest of all time. Despite the regular season wins and Big 12 Championships, the seniors have never made a Final Four, something they are not afraid to talk about.

Prior to last year’s tournament, Final Four was the goal. Following the loss to Oregon State, it became a motto. Mulkey’s team has stated all season long that the ultimate goal for this team is to finally break through and get to the Final Four.

With the seniors playing in their last NCAA Tournament, they should be ultra motivated to make the next step and reach that goal. It’s the last chance they have to do so.

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