Bears miss out on big dance, NIT bound

Baylor head coach Scott Drew looks on as his Bears battle West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal game. Drew now leads No. 1 Baylor against No. 8 Wagner in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Associated Press/Charlie Riedel

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Baylor men’s basketball has been selected to compete in the 2018 National Invitation Tournament after missing out on a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Bears (18-14, 8-10) were listed as one of the NCAA Tournament committee’s “First Four Out,” resulting in a No. 1 seed in the NIT.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew said not making the NCAA Tournament field was a letdown, but the Bears still have a chance to win a championship.

“It’s obviously disappointing not having chance to be in the NCAA Tournament,” Drew said. “But it’s a great opportunity to be a No. 1 seed in the NIT. There’s a lot of quality teams and great players in the field.”

Baylor is one of just three teams in the Big 12 Conference not to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament this season, along with Oklahoma State and Iowa State.

The Bears finished the season with the fourth-toughest strength of schedule, according to ESPN, prompting Drew to wonder why Baylor missed out on a chance to compete for the National Championship.

“I don’t know if I really understand it all,” Drew said. “We didn’t have any losses in quadrant three or quadrant four. We only had one loss to a non-tournament team and that was at Iowa State which, according to KenPom, is the second toughest place to play in the country.”

Baylor will take on No. 8-seeded Wagner at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferrell Center and will have the chance to play two more games in Waco if it wins.

Junior guard Jake Lindsey said being able to play postseason basketball at home is the silver lining in missing the NCAA Tournament.

“Any opportunity to play basketball is a blessing,” Lindsey said. “We get to do it at home. Nothing beats a home crowd. No senior wants to lose their last game on their home court.”

With a win, the Bears will face the winner of the No. 4 seed Mississippi State and No. 5 seed Nebraska game. A win in the second round could result in a matchup against No. 2 seed Louisville or No. 3 seed Middle Tennessee.

Drew said the NIT field is as stacked as it’s ever been.

“This year it seemed like there were more quality teams on the bubble,” Drew said. “Lots of big name players and key programs.”

The NIT is experimenting with rule changes that could be used in the future for all NCAA basketball games. The three-point line will be moved back almost two feet, the lane will be wider and the game will be divided into four 10-minute quarters.

Lindsey said he is excited to play under these revised rules, but that shouldn’t change the outcome of games.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Lindsey said. “It’ll be fun, but at the end of the day it’s still players making plays and the better team will win.”

The Bears’ game against Wagner tips off at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferrell Center.