By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
From start to finish this wasn’t a normal season for the Bears. Baylor’s men’s basketball team began their season 24-1, including a stretch that featured the longest winning-streak by a Big 12 team in conference history. Then, it abruptly ended due to the world-wide pandemic.
Baylor was ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press four times more this season than it had been over the course of program history. The Bears were set up for their best showing on Selection Sunday, with Joe Lunardi’s bracket projection slotting them in for a No. 1 seed.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the NCAA canceled all spring sport championships, including both the men’s and women’s tournaments, and the Big 12 canceled all athletic events for the remainder of the school year. When head coach Scott Drew got out of bed the morning after the season was deemed dead, he wasn’t sure it was real.
“I woke up the next morning … and I said “was that a dream?” Drew said.
Even with all the negativity and anxiety surrounding the sports world, the Bears are doing their best to look forward. Drew said one senior, guard Obim Okeke, stood up after the season was done to say what needed to be done.
“Obim said, ‘This is a blessed season. Let’s make this happy. Look at all the things we’ve accomplished: 23-game win streak, being ranked No. 1 longer than any team since Kentucky in 2015, 15 conference wins,’ on and on and on, and right away the mood just changed, and everything was very positive,” Drew said. “I think that just summarizes this whole season.”
Drew’s optimism drips from this team as it has each of his in the past. The only difference is this one had the chance to go all the way. Fivethirtyeight gave Baylor a 7% chance to win it all based on ESPN’s bracket projection, good for fifth-best in the country.
Still, the vibe in the locker room was the same as it’s always been in the Ferrell Center. The Bears just wanted to play ball with each other.
“The guys love one another,” Drew said. “They love to compete, and they love to play. I thought they brought out the best in each other all year long.”