By Tyler Alley
Baylor men’s basketball was elite again. That is to say, the Bears once again earned a spot in the Regional Finals of the NCAA tournament, also known as the “Elite Eight.”
The Bears last made the Elite Eight in 2010, setting a then-program record of 28 wins. This season, head coach Scott Drew brought the Bears back once again.
“I think the big thing is when you’ve done something, human nature is you want to go to the next step,” Drew said. “With people experiencing the Elite Eight before, that’s helped us stay grounded, focused, to try to be in a situation where you can cut down the nets and go to a Final Four.”
Looking back at that team, one can find some (almost uncanny) similarities between 2010 and 2012.
First the random and not-so-significant similarity: Baylor is a 3-seed now and was a 3-seed then, and in both years, the road to the Elite Eight went through a 14-, 10- and 11- seed.
More importantly is who was on both teams — five players bring experience from that team (redshirt sophomore Cory Jefferson, junior A.J. Walton and seniors Fred Ellis, Anthony Jones and Quincy Acy) but only one of those players starts (Acy). Those who were there before, Acy said, don’t want to go out like last time.
“I think the guys, the younger guys as well as the seniors, upperclassmen, we made a commitment this year that we know we have the talent,” Acy said. “We just have to execute and do what Coach has for us. He always puts us in good positions to do what we’re capable of doing. It’s just up to us to execute and get stops and stuff like that.”
The Bears of 2010 had a 6-foot-10 NBA-bound forward who could put good points and snag key rebounds. The 2012 version of Ekpe Udoh? Sophomore Perry Jones III fit much of the mold Udoh was as a player.
Jones III was among a starting lineup with four of five players with zero prior tournament experience.
“I mean, it’s exciting to be in the Elite Eight, especially experiencing it with the guys that have been here before,” Jones III said. “We’re just looking forward to go a little further and make a little history.”
Having said all that, there were key differences as well. The 2010 Elite Eight team had a senior point guard with four seasons of experience. The 2012 Bears’ starting point guard was Pierre Jackson, a junior in his rookie season for Division I basketball.
“I’m always nervous before every game,” Jackson said. “It’s my first trip here. But my teammates do a good job of keeping me confident and positive. I just have to go out there and help my team win.”
The other big differences were that the 2012 Bears did not have their own variation of guard LaceDarius Dunn or center Josh Lomers. Dunn served as a pure point-scorer for the 2010 Bears, and Lomers was pure inside presence.
This was not necessarily a downside, however. The Bears did not have a Dunn-type player who was guaranteed to put up a good amount of points; instead, the Bears had multiple players who could. All five members of the starting lineup led the team in scoring in at least one game.
As for Lomers? Again, there is not one player designed for inside presence; Jones III, Acy, Jefferson and freshman Quincy Miller all showed post play. as a part of their game along with other strengths.
There are two more (unfortunate) similarities for the Bears: both the 2010 team and the 2012 team fell in the Elite Eight to a 1-seed, and in both years, the 1-seed that defeated Baylor (Duke in 2010, Kentucky in 2012) won it all.