Sports take: Can Baylor keep its’ fans?

The Bear Pit throws torn up newspapers into the air before the game begins. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

By Thomas Mott | Reporter

The Baylor men’s basketball team took only 14 games to go from unranked to No. 1 in the nation with wins over AP top 25 teams like Louisville, Xavier and Oregon. While Baylor has been ranked in the top 25 at some point during the season every year for the past 10 years no other men’s Baylor basketball team has ever been ranked No. 1.

“It’s a great recognition. It’s a great honor. It’s very humbling, but as a coach, you also know that no one remembers who was ranked number one in January. Everyone remembers at the end of the season. We have bigger goals and a lot more that we want to accomplish, and being ranked number one right now doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything the rest of the year,” said Baylor men’s basketball head coach Scott Drew.

Unfortunately for the Bears, the No. 1 ranking left almost as quickly as it came. Baylor’s 89-68 loss to West Virginia on Jan. 10 was enough to knock Baylor back five spots to No. 6 in the newest AP rankings.

The Mountaineers attacking style of defense proved too much for the top-ranked Bears. Baylor committed a season-high 29 turnovers in the loss.

“They just kept coming, kept coming. We were down two; they were pressing. We were down almost 30, and they were still pressing. They were just relentless,” said junior forward Terry Maston after the loss.

The loss was not only the first of its kind for the Baylor team, but also the first loss for the Baylor fan base who had been packing into the Ferrell Center for almost every home game up to this point.

The Bears tried to erase the memories of West Virginia with bounce-back wins against Kansas State and Texas this past week.

“Obviously we got smacked at West Virginia. Great team and a tough place to play, but then again, the day after is all business. It is all about the next game, and we are 0-0. We knew it was going to be a tough game here against Kansas State, so we came ready,” said junior guard Manu Lecomte.

Even with just one loss on their impressive resume, a question remains-will the casual Baylor fan continue to show up to home games? This might sound preposterous, but if the past is any indicator, we have seen this movie before.

When Baylor teams struggle, fans stay home. Look at the football team this past season. The once-sold out McLane Stadium seemed asleep at times during the Bears’ six-game losing streak. The Ferrell Center has proven to be even more unforgiving as only recently has the golden dome seemed to fill up to its capacity.

If more losses are on the horizon, and the Big 12 schedule could provide some, will the home court advantage dwindle as it has in the past? With plenty of other commitments filling students calendars, will they simply choose to stay home?

“Yeah, I’d say if we started losing more and more games and kind of fell off towards the end of the season, you could see a poor showing at home games,” said Danville, Calif., junior Thomas Bugbee.

Conventional wisdom would argue that the Ferrell Center will stay filled. This Baylor team is better than past teams, and fans seem to be behind this group of players more than ever.

With that being said, if the losses do start to add up, do not be surprised if the attendance starts to subtract.

When asked if he thinks his fellow students would choose to not go to basketball games if Baylor starts to lose, Bugbee said, “Probably … Especially since most people aren’t huge college basketball fans when it’s not March Madness.”

The Bears will take on TCU at 8 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth.