For the first time in over 100 years of existence, the Baylor men’s basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the nation. However, this reign ended Monday morning after just one week – and that is the best thing that could have happened for this year’s team.
Every year, each school strives for the ultimate goal there is in NCAA college basketball: the National Championship. Nobody remembers who was ranked No. 1 in mid-January. The lasting impression after each season is the team that gets to hoist the National Championship trophy while confetti falls from the sky.
That feeling unquestionably exceeds the momentary bliss of being the top-ranked team in the nation after only the first week of conference play. If this year’s men’s team wants to feel that feeling, then losing the #1 spot in the country could be the catalyst to propel it into a deep NCAA tournament run.
Playing as the top-ranked school in the country is a huge achievement, but it comes with tremendous pressure to be perfect every single play because that’s what people come to expect. You’re “the best,” right? Every team you face from that point forward will give you its best effort yet in order to say that it took down the supposed best team in the country. These expectations and added pressure can cause a team to underperform when it matters most. Once that happens, it’s no longer the same team that earned that top spot in the first place and its continued success could be in serious jeopardy after only a loss or two.
No men’s team has navigated a perfect season since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. It has been 41 years since a school did it, the last being the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. Though it is disappointing as a fan for your team to relinquish the No. 1 spot and add a blemish to its perfect record, going undefeated is highly improbable to begin with.
Baylor’s loss on Jan. 10 to West Virginia, a top ten team in its own right, can now help the Bears to continue their impressive play. It no longer has to live up to the expectation of being the best team in the country; the players can just play basketball. And they’ve been outstanding at that this year.
Now let’s not belittle how important achieving the No. 1 ranking is for Baylor University. For the fans at the Ferrell Center watching the Bears close out a tough Oklahoma State matchup and cement their case for the No. 1 spot in the country, that feeling was as incredible as winning the championship itself.
Victorious chants rang throughout the Ferrell Center as students, faculty and all other fans in attendance were given a treat that not many college basketball fans get to experience. Nobody can take that away from them either. Regardless of how this season plays out, we will all be able to say, even if just for a week, “MY school was the No. 1 team in the country.”
This is something that strengthens the bond that exists within the Baylor family. It makes the university more appealing to prospective students, and it’s another representation of the excellence present here at Baylor University.