By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor
Baylor men’s basketball was ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, which was released Monday by the Associated Press.
The Bears have received a preseason ranking in eight of the last 11 years and the No. 2 spot is 10 places higher than their last ranking. Baylor was only one point behind No. 1-ranked Gonzaga, receiving 24 of 64 first-place votes, garnering 1,541 points. The Bears will get the chance to pull off the upset when they face the top-ranked Bulldogs on Dec. 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Baylor will kick off the season with a five-game road trip starting with a matchup against No. 18 Arizona State in the first round of the 2K Empire Classic, followed by potential games against No. 3 Villanova and No. 8 Illinois, with a game against Seton Hall thrown in the middle of the five-game stretch.
The Bears could end up facing 12 ranked teams during their 27-game schedule as four other Big 12 teams have also received rankings. Baylor will play home-and-home matchups during its conference schedule against No. 6 Kansas, No. 14 Texas Tech, No. 15 West Virginia and No. 19 Texas.
Baylor was ranked No. 16 in last year’s preseason poll and climbed up to No. 1, holding the spot for five consecutive weeks, while riding a a 23-game winning streak. The Bears were projected to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baylor was ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 Preseason Poll with seven first-place votes. Junior guard Jared Butler was named the Preseason Player of the Year with redshirt seniors Mark Vital and MaCio Teague receiving Preseason All-Big 12 honorable mentions.
The Bears return four starters in Butler, Vital, Teague and redshirt junior Davion Mitchell, as well as juniors Flo Thamba and Matthew Mayer, senior Tristan Clark and sophomore Jackson Moffatt. Baylor adds three players who sat out last season with a redshirt in freshman Jordan Turner and sophomores Adam Flager and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. The Bears roster also sports three top-100 true freshmen in LJ Cryer, Dain Dainja and Zach Loveday and walk-on grad transfer Mark Paterson.