By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer
Baylor basketball’s loss to Kansas on Saturday was its second defeat of the season, and its first in Big 12 play. The Bears lost while hosting College GameDay for the second time this school year, but unlike in football, this loss to Kansas is but a dent in the grand scheme of things.
Even after the loss, the Bears are still tied for the Big 12 lead as both Baylor and Kansas are 13-1 in the conference, with each team beating the other once. If both teams win out the rest of conference play, they will share the Big 12 regular season title. If Baylor wins out and Kansas drops one of its remaining four games, Baylor alone will hold the conference.
Either way, Baylor still in contention to clinch its first regular season conference title since 1950, when it won the old Southwest Conference.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew said winning the conference is the team’s focus right now.
“The great thing is we control our own destiny,” Drew said. “The goal is to always win a conference championship. We’ve got 13 days to make history.”
Further, Baylor only fell one spot in the polls to No. 2. If the Bears continue to win games and make a run in the Big 12 tournament, it is very possible they see Kansas again this season and have an opportunity to get back to the top.
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said before Saturday’s game that he would not be surprised if Baylor and Kansas end up with a postseason matchup in late March.
“It’s possible that Baylor and Kansas could play four times this year,” Bilas said. “That’s a very real possibility, that they could see one another again in the Big 12 Championship and they could see one another again in [the Final Four]. That’s how good these teams are.”
If Baylor wins the Big 12 tournament, they will almost surely be the No. 1 team in the country come March Madness. If they do fall to Kansas again, the Bears still have a strong chance of gaining a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg said he would be shocked if either Baylor or Kansas fell below the No. 1 seed line in March.
“I think [both Baylor and Kansas] are going to be number one seeds,” Greenberg said, “unless something drastic happens. I would be shocked if both of these guys weren’t number one seeds. . . these teams have separated themselves.”
While the Bears have a lot of big games ahead of them, starting forward Freddie Gillespie said he is focused on taking the rest of the season one game at a time.
“The great thing about our saying, ‘Go 1-0,’” Gillespie said, “is that even when you lose, it goes back to 0-0. So as far as I’m concerned we’re back to 0-0 and my main focus is Kansas State.”
Baylor remains at home, facing Kansas State at 7 p.m. today at the Ferrell Center. Drew said he hopes the fans are back to full force to cheer on the Bears against the Wildcats.
“The best thing you can do if you want to help us win is to be in attendance and be loud tomorrow,” Drew said. “Hopefully, we get a great crowd, they’re vocal and they’re loud, and we’re going to do our part to give you a lot to cheer for.”