By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
For the first time in program history, Baylor men’s basketball was selected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The Bears will play No.16 seed Hartford on Friday.
Nearly two years since the last tournament selection was announced, Baylor was given the No. 1 seed in the South region, second overall in the tournament behind only undefeated Gonzaga and above Illinois and Michigan.
Drew said he and the Bears were happy to have their achievements acknowledged and rewarded by being given a No. 1 seed but said it didn’t guarantee success.
“There’s always a lot of pride in being able to get a No. 1 seed,” Drew said. “Doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re going to be successful in the tournament, which we all know. That’s why it’s March Madness.”
Baylor’s star guard junior Jared Butler said the No. 1 seed was a result of two years’ worth of work but that it wasn’t the end for Baylor.
“I think it’s just the product of the two years of playing hard and building a winning culture and getting the right group of guys together,” Butler said. “It’s been special, and we’re just getting started.”
Baylor’s last appearance in the NCAA Tournament came in 2019, when, as a No. 9 seed, the Bears beat No. 8 seed Syracuse and lost to No. 1 seed Gonzaga. Baylor head coach Scott Drew echoed a tried-and-true mantra for the Bears this season as the key to success in the tournament, going 1-0.
“That’s the beauty of college basketball,” Drew said. “It’s a 40-minute game. It’s not the NBA where it’s a best of seven and the best team wins. In a 40-minute game, anybody can win. So, you’ve got to control everything you can control and let God decide the rest.”
Baylor’s first-round opponent, the Hartford Hawks, finished 15-8 on the season, winning the American East tournament to grab the automatic qualifier spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks entered the American East tournament as the No. 4 seed, going 8-6 in conference.
No. 1 seeds are 135-1 all-time against No. 16 seeds, with the sole loss coming when UMBC upset Virginia in 2018. Should the Bears win against Hartford, they will face the winner of the matchup between No. 8 seed North Carolina and No. 9 seed Wisconsin. The Tar Heels and Badgers will also play on Friday.