By Michael Haag | Sports Writer
I think it is safe to say Baylor fans are spoiled with winning, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. Baylor has shown it competes at the highest level across all sports, and while this is a boastful feat, it has definitely gone to some of your heads. Amid the recent slip-ups of the men’s and women’s basketball programs, I assure you there is no reason to fret. The Bears will be just fine and will be ready to show the country who they are come March.
Yes, No. 5 Baylor men’s basketball did lose two straight home games, and I get that. You probably think I’m going to use freshman forward Jeremy Sochan’s ankle injury as the excuse for the losses. While he is a crucial part to the team, I feel as if his absence was not the real reason.
The fact is the Big 12 is a really – I mean really – good basketball conference, by far the best league in the country. The competition is insane and downright scary. The group had seven schools represented in the 2021 NCAA tournament, a nation best. I would say a couple losses to teams that are unranked in the Big 12 is nothing to hold your head over, especially when the margin was not super wide. Baylor kept the games close and had their chances. While it’s easy to expect the powerhouse Bears to never lose, it’s just unrealistic and not going to happen, especially not in a conference like this.
Think back to last year’s national championship team, a group that was undefeated for a large portion of the season. Even that squad came back from a COVID-19 pause and lost a game before and during the Big 12 tournament.
While it is safe to say the team would’ve likely remained undefeated if they weren’t forced to go on a pause, I believe those losses actually helped. Non-conference and conference play is very important, don’t get me wrong, but what is the end goal? I think we all know the answer: a deep tournament run. Regular season losses are obviously not ideal or wished for – especially when you are ranked No. 1 in the nation – but they allow for massive growth. Again, do not worry, men’s basketball will be a top-three seed come tournament time and ready to make another deep run at a national championship.
Flipping over to No. 14 Baylor women’s basketball, I first and foremost find it comical to see the replies from fans after the Bears’ road loss to the University of Oklahoma. Eleven straight Big 12 titles might spoil the fanbase a bit. However, many people seem to be giving up on head coach Nicki Collen in just her first year in taking over Kim Mulkey’s program. It is asinine to want the 2018 WNBA Coach of the Year gone already. She is a puzzle-piece fit for Baylor, and will flourish leading her new program in the direction she so chooses.
Although I’m fully confident in Collen for the future of Baylor women’s basketball, what boggles me are the doubts that have crept in on the current squad. I expect nothing short of a Sweet 16 run, with a ceiling even higher than that. People don’t seem to realize it has been three weeks since the Bears have played at the Ferrell Center, cut the girls some slack. They have not only competed, but have remained in high spirits, ultimately getting back in the win column.
Did I forget to mention the team has been dealing with COVID-19 issues? Again, we have seen this story unfold with the 2021 Baylor men’s team. There is nothing to worry about, just give it time. Once fully healthy and back on track, watch out for the No. 14 Bears, as I expect a major turnaround in the conference standings in the coming weeks.
Both programs are poised to do great things as they head toward March when things get real. Baylor Family, I urge you to take a deep breath and trust the process of both squads; the Bears will be just fine.