Sports Take: Basketball teams to host marquee matchups

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Baylor announced both the men’s and women’s basketball schedules for the 2017-18 season Thursday.

While both teams participate in the always difficult Big 12 Conference, some of the best matchups may come during the first half of the season.

The Lady Bears open the season on Nov. 10 against Lamar at the Ferrell Center and will follow it up with home games against Coppin State and Central Arkansas on Nov. 12 and 14, respectively.

The schedule ramps up from that point with a rematch against UCLA in Los Angeles. The Lady Bears defeated the Bruins 84-70 in Waco last year.

Baylor then will compete in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas from Nov. 23 through Nov. 25. It will face Missouri State, followed by either Penn or Georgia Tech.

Next, the Lady Bears will take on Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge and then host Stanford. The Wildcats were a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament last year but bowed out in the second round, while the Cardinal was a 2-seed and reached their 13th Final Four where they fell 62-53 to eventual champion South Carolina.

Baylor has games against North Dakota, McNeese State and Nicholls State to finish off the non-conference schedule in December.

Overall, the Lady Bears could potentially face four 2017 NCAA Tournament teams in the non-conference portion, with five more during the conference slate.

The men’s basketball team has a similar schedule structure with a few easy home games to start off the season.

Baylor takes on Central Arkansas on Nov. 10 to tip off the season, followed by games against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Alcorn State on Nov. 13 and Nov. 17, respectively.

The Bears then head to Kansas City to participate in the College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic. Baylor faces Wisconsin on Nov. 20 and then takes on either UCLA or Creighton on the 21. All three teams made the tournament last year and none was lower than a 6-seed.

Baylor continues its tough stretch with a road game at Xavier on Nov. 28, a team that the Bears defeated 76-61 in Waco last season.

The marquee matchup of the non-conference for Baylor comes on Dec. 2, in Waco as the Bears host Wichita State, a team that went 30-4 last season and is expected to be ranked in the Top 10 at the beginning of this season.

The schedule then softens up for the Bears as they face Sam Houston State, Randall, Texas Southern, Savannah State and Southern to take them to the start of conference play.

The men’s basketball team does deviate from conference play at the end of January, however, to head to Florida and take on the Gators as a part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

All in all, the Bears, like the Lady Bears, will face four 2017 NCAA Tournament teams in the non-conference, with another five coming during conference action.

While each team has a respectable non-conference schedule in which it will receive national attention, I question the timing of the difficult matchups.

Each Baylor basketball team has sandwiched a stretch of tough games in between cupcake opponents. This means that if either team is to lose some or all of those difficult games, they could slip out of the polls until at least a few weeks into the conference season.

Nevertheless, the teams have shown no fear in facing nationally respected teams to boost strength of schedule, and that helps put Baylor basketball on the map early on in the season.