No. 1 seed Bears look to make history in Kansas City

Head coach, Scott Drew hoists his freshly cut net for the crowd during the Senior Day celebration of the Bears' first regular season conference title in 71 years. Cole Tompkins | Photographer

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

Fresh off of making history by winning Baylor’s first Big 12 regular-season title in 71 years, No. 2 Baylor men’s basketball will look to do it again by winning the program’s first Big 12 Tournament title this weekend in Kansas City, Mo.

Due to Baylor’s success in the regular season, the Bears will have the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the first time in program history and will look to make the Big 12 Tournament title game for the first time since 2014, where Baylor lost to Iowa State.

Despite the pressure to make history for the Baylor program, Jared Butler, junior guard and AP Big 12 Player of the Year, said the team is just focused on winning one game at a time.

“We don’t want to lose a game,” Butler said. “We’re just going to try and go 1-0. That’s it.”

Scott Drew, Baylor head coach and Big 12 Coach of the Year, echoed Butler’s statement, saying the team is no longer focused on the regular season and its results but on making their stay in the postseason as long as possible.

“We’re trying to get packed for a week in Kansas City and hopefully three weeks or four weeks in the NCAA [Tournament],” Drew said.

Baylor will play Kansas State in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats defeated TCU 71-50 on Wednesday to advance. The Bears swept Kansas State convincingly this season, winning 100-69 in December and 107-59 in January.

Should Baylor win their matchup against either Kansas State, the Bears will play on Friday against the winner of Thursday’s matchup between No. 4 West Virginia and No. 5 Oklahoma State. The Friday matchup is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2.

A potential concern for Baylor going into the tournament was their ability to reach the level of play the team had hit before spending 21 days off due to COVID-19 protocols. Butler and Baylor quelled those concerns during the last week of the regular season, winning three straight games against ranked opponents. While Butler thinks Baylor is back, he still believes there is room to improve for the Bears.

“I would say so,” Butler said when asked if Baylor was back to playing at its normal level. “I think our defense for sure could a little bit better. It hasn’t been playing how we want it to. We made some strides last game against Texas Tech.”

Baylor will look to begin its run to the Big 12 Tournament title against Kansas State at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the T-Mobile Center. The game will be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.