By Chris Derrett
It’s been a while since the Baylor Lariat, the university’s student newspaper, has seen so many letters to the editor on a single topic. Current students, alumni and faculty all want us to spread the word about ESPN’s College GameDay coming to Waco.
But for the Baylor players suiting up and the coaches joining them to face Texas on Saturday, the fact that GameDay is in town could actually be the least relevant fact about their weekend.
It’s not that the ESPN crew doesn’t provide Baylor with a great opportunity in exposure and recruiting. But at 7-8 in the Big 12, there’s no time for the Bears to worry about the bells and whistles surrounding their last regular season contest.
At the beginning of the season, hopes were high among Baylor fans that a win on March 5 would be icing on the cake, nothing more than a momentum boost for a top 25 Bears squad primed for a NCAA postseason run. Now Scott Drew’s team faces the reality that the Big 12 has never sent a 7-9 team to the Big Dance.
Desperation is the closest the English dictionary can get to describing Baylor¹s plight.
Even as early as mid-February, the Bears thought they had it all sewn up.
They win three of the last five, and they probably clinch consecutive NCAA appearances for the first time in school history. No problem.
Then a lackadaisical effort cost the Bears an embarrassing home loss to Texas Tech. Missouri proved too much at Mizzou Arena.
A home win over Texas A&M kept the hope alive, but it came crashing down in Stillwater as LaceDarius Dunn shot a career low 2 of 16 from the field in another loss.
If Baylor doesn’t win Saturday and loses in the Big 12 tournament, becoming the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer could be the last accomplishment Dunn adds before hanging up his Baylor jersey. As it stands, anything short of a Saturday victory and Big 12 finals or semifinals appearance will absolutely deny the Bears of the NCAA’s.
I don¹t know what makes for better television bubble vs. top 10 or ranked vs. ranked – but viewers should see a Bears team scratching and clawing for its life Saturday.
The key word, however, is should. Fans should have seen a fiery, motivated team in Waco against Texas Tech. They should have seen a collective team effort Tuesday night. What they’ll actually see Saturday is just as unpredictable as it’s been the entire season.
At the point guard position, sophomore A.J. Walton could have five assists and one turnover, or it could be the other way around. Dunn at the 2-guard could shoot the lights out, or he could force more of the bad shots that have Baylor supporters running for anti-depressants.
The zone defense could be just as porous as ever, forcing Drew to switch to man-to-man, or the front line could produce another six blocks.
Finally, there’s always the chance that Baylor could finish with more assists than turnovers, but that hasn’t happened in 23 games. And Texas is no Bethune-Cookman.
Even with Spring Break under way, the Baylor family and the Waco community will hopefully give the GameDay crew the environment it has come to expect.
We want noise, rowdiness and energy spewing from the Ferrell Center before, during and after the game.
The team, though, should consider blinders until it takes the court.
We¹ll be there behind them, waiting for their best showing of the year.
GameDay airs Saturdays at 10 a.m. ET (9 a.m. CT) on ESPNU and at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET (10 a.m. and 7 p.m. CT) on ESPN