By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
On Monday, Baylor men’s basketball was picked as the No. 1 team for the fourth time in a row. Big 12 teams have also been ranked for five weeks this season, more than any other conference in the country.
Kansas and Baylor have been ranked in the top five for the past month, with West Virginia right behind No. 14 and the defending national runner-up in Texas Tech hovering around the edge of the rankings. Baylor redshirt junior guard MaCio Teague said they are proud to be the top team in the nation.
“We get every team’s best shot,” Teague said. “We just try to embrace that, and we know that’ll help us in the long run … It feels good and everything to be No. 1. We don’t really think about it too much because that’s when you get complacent … We’re just trying to stay locked in night in and night out and go 1-0 each day.”
On top of the high ranking, Baylor’s schedule is also among the toughest in the country. According to KenPom, the team has had the 43rd-hardest schedule this season, and an even harder conference schedule than most other high-major schools will play this season. Head coach Scott Drew said the depth of the Big 12 is what makes it a truly great conference.
“For six straight years, the No. 1 conference in the country has been the Big 12, and it’s never been because of the No. 1, 2 or 3, it’s been because of teams six, seven, eight, nine and 10,” Drew said.
Redshirt senior forward Freddie Gillespie said the team doesn’t even look at records before the game because they don’t reflect the quality of the team they’re going to face.
“Record is not an indicator of how good of a team they are,” Gillespie said as Teague nodded his head. “And I stand by that.”
Drew has been at this for a while. In his 17th season on Baylor’s campus, the team has been ranked No. 1 twice in the past three years after never receiving the honor before in the history of the program. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton Jr. said what Drew has been able to do in Waco is a testament to his skill as a coach and leader.
“I think all the people in Waco ought to be proud that [Drew’s] been here this long, has built this thing into a national championship-type program,” Boynton said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his staff and the way they go about things, and his kids play the game the right way.
“When you get a group of guys who have bought into everybody having a role carved out and being the best that they can, you have a chance to be very, very good nationally.”