|Baylor Basketball Finds Itself in Elite Company
12:05 P.M. TUESDAY, Dec. 22, 2009
Now that we're at the Christmas break - and the Baylor men's and women's basketball teams have suffered just one loss apiece - I was wondering how that measured up with the rest of the country.
Well, as it turns out, there are only five other combined programs in Division I basketball that have as many as 20 victories at this point in the season.
Kentucky is first at a combined 22-0, followed by Ohio State and Florida State (21-3), then Syracuse (20-0) and Baylor and St. John's (20-2). Not bad company, I'd say.
And think about who it doesn't include - Connecticut, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Texas, just to name a few. Nebraska's actually next in the Big 12 at 19-3, followed by Texas Tech and Kansas (18-2) and then Texas A&M and Oklahoma State (18-3).
Five weeks does not a season make. But especially when you consider some of the quality wins - Arizona State and Xavier for the men; Cal, Arizona State and Gonzaga for the women - these are definitely teams that are building resumes for the NCAA Tournament.
So will December's dynasties turn into March Madness?
At this point, the fifth-ranked Lady Bears (11-1) are a lock for the tournament and a good bet to make an Elite Eight run, if not further. I think only time will tell for the Baylor men (9-1), but I believe this is a better team than last year's senior-laden squad that won 24 games and reached the finals of the Big 12 and NIT tournaments.
"They lost a couple really good guards (Curtis Jerrells and Henry Dugat), and they're probably better than they were last year," UT-Arlington coach Scott Cross said after falling to the Bears, 94-63, on Sunday. "And I thought their team was really good last year. If they continue to play the way they're playing, I think they're going to have a great season. They're definitely a little bigger and stronger, a little more inside-oriented this year, and their system fits their personnel very well."
HOW SWEET IT IS!!: Volleyball Makes It Five
4:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY, Dec. 9, 2009
It might sound a little cliché, but I never get tired of using that headline: How Sweet It Is!!
For the record, while this is the volleyball team's first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, it's the fifth in the calendar year for Baylor athletics. Not too shabby for a little ol' private school in Waco, Texas.
Women's basketball tipped it off with the Lady Bears' fourth Sweet 16 appearance in the last seven years, losing to eventual national runner-up Louisville. Men's and women's tennis both made it to the Elite Eight, but that's almost a disappointment for programs that are intent on adding to Baylor's stock of national championships.
And Glenn Moore's softball team, two years removed from a trip to the World Series, lost to Michigan in a Super Regional in Ann Arbor.
In those five sports - women's basketball, volleyball, softball and men's and women's tennis - Baylor and Stanford are the only schools in the country that were represented in the Sweet 16 in every one of them.
And that doesn't even include Baylor's Top-10 finishes in men's indoor track (T-5th) and women's outdoor track (10th), plus a fourth-place finish in Hunter Seat and seventh in Western riding at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships. Or men's basketball's runner-up finish in the 2009 NIT.
If that doesn't get your blood pumping, there's just something wrong with you.
"I don't even know if words can describe it," senior setter Taylor Barnes said of the volleyball team's 3-1 win over eighth-seeded UCLA last Saturday at the Bruins' Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. "We were all like kids, just jumping up and down and hugging each other and just going crazy. Because it's going to be remembered forever."
Here's hoping the Bears can make a few more memories this weekend in Gainesville, Fla. Baylor (24-9) faces ninth-seeded California (20-10) at 2:30 p.m. CST Friday, followed by the other region semifinal between top-seeded and two-time defending national champion Penn State (34-0) and 16th-seeded Florida (25-5) at 5 p.m., with the winners meeting at 3 p.m. CST Saturday.
"We're facing a very good Cal team," head coach Jim Barnes said. "But if we play the way we did this past weekend, I certainly like our chances."
As sweet as the Sweet 16 is, how much finer would a trip to the Final Four be? In case you're wondering, the volleyball Final Four is Dec. 17-19 in Tampa, Fla.
Something tells me I've got to come up with something even better than: How Sweet It Is!!
You Want to Know How Big That Mizzou Was?
11:15 P.M. WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2009
When coach Art Briles sat down with the media at the end of his second straight 4-8 season, he said that "when you do something (in the Big 12 Conference), you've done something."
In other words, in a league like the Big 12, there's no such thing as a "bad" win.
But I think it's also safe to say that some are better than others.
Ask any Baylor fan, and the wins over Texas A&M in 2004 and '08 would probably rank as the top two in this decade. Especially that 35-34 overtime win over the Cotton Bowl-bound Aggies in '04.
But this year's team did something that no other Baylor team had done in the last 14 years. The Bears' 40-32 win over an 8-4 Missouri team on Nov. 7 is the first time the Bears have defeated an eight-win team since beating an 8-3, Copper Bowl-bound Texas Tech team, 9-7, on Sept. 30, 1995.
I would say that the Bears "have done something."
Since joining the Big 12, Baylor had beaten four seven-win, bowl-bound teams - Kansas State in 2006, Iowa State in '05, that Aggies' team in '04 and North Carolina State in 1998.
And not one of those other wins were led by a true freshman who started the season as the No. 3 quarterback.
Here's hoping that we don't have to wait another 14 years for a win like that. I think it's safe to say that we won't.
Before you run, you have to walk. And before you walk, you have to crawl. It's time for Baylor to stop crawling and take those first memorable steps toward a bowl game in 2010.