Let's Hear it For the Boy
5:10 P.M. MONDAY, FEB. 15, 2010
Two words to sum up the topic of this week's CIL entry: Scott Drew.
Coach Drew notched career win number 100 at Baylor on Saturday with a rousing last-second win over Mizzou. The Bears are one win away from their third straight 20 win season and four weeks away from returning to the big dance, but the focus need not be anyone other than our general today.
We all know the story. We're all familiar with the program that Drew inherited seven years ago. The fact alone that Drew is still in on the BU sidelines might be considered a small miracle considering the obstacles he and the program faced.
What people might not realize (even the Baylor diehards among us) was that Drew was instantly successful with this program. In his first year we swept the Aggies, in his second year we beat a Big Ten team on the road (our first such accomplishment in who knows how long).
The following two seasons were marred with a second wave of infractions and sanctions handed down by the NCAA. Add unforeseen injuries to the mix and it was easy to believe that the program was becoming stagnant.
But Drew kept on, landing top 25 recruiting classes year after year, building excitement in Waco and reestablishing the program as a not just respectable, but eventually a conference contender.
The five overtime win in College Station two years ago coincided with the team's first appearance in the top 25 in the coach's era. Drew joined SportsCenter live that night and ESPN's PTI program later that season putting the program at a level of familiarity never before reached. Every Bears fan beamed not just with excitement about that team, but about what an exceptional figurehead we had representing our school.
Last season, despite an underwhelming conference regular season, Drew answered a lot of critics who may have praised his recruiting efforts but weren't yet sold on his control of the game. The staff implemented a zone defense at the 11th hour, nearly won the Big 12 Conference tournament and proceeded to storm the NIT all the way to the finals.
Drew's success is no secret now. 2008 was not a one year sensation. The Bears play more national televised games than 85% of the division one schools in the country, the Ferrell Center is an inarguably tough place to steal a win and this year's squad is poised to only enhance the program's identity. While we're all tired of hearing about the flashbacks to 2003 and seeing the timeline of events that Coach Drew has tried to negate since his arrival in Waco, this story can not be told enough by today's media. It's almost like a living folktale. Ever hear of Scott Drew, the man that saved Baylor Basketball? The legend and the program have never been more alive. Win number 100 at Baylor is all the proof you need.
Stuck in a Moment
10:45 A.M. MONDAY, FEB. 8, 2010
So I know what you're thinking. You're thinking to yourself that despite a gut-wrenching loss to the Aggies in College Station, Baylor's managing to beat the Longhorns in Austin a week earlier still puts us at a good spot now halfway through the conference season.
You might be right, you might be wrong. What can't be argued, however, is that a 4-4 record through eight games is not where this team wanted to be. Perhaps what stings most about Saturday's loss is that the Bears played well enough to win. For about 36 minutes, the Bears showed poise, composure and resilience. These traits we knew would surface after a close loss to Lawrence against KU and a nail-biting win the previous Saturday in Austin. This team is battle-tested, knows how to win on the road and, quite frankly, is more often than not the better team on the floor.
But all that didn't stop BU from getting caught in the eye of the Reed Arena storm and stuck in the moment for a pivotal stretch. For the third time this season, a last-minute setback has brought BU back to a .500 record in conference play.
The Bears were served a nasty reminder of just how hard it is to win on the road in this conference. I hate even saying this, but give the Aggies credit. Give them a lot of credit. They hit their foul shots, made the big shots and fought harder in the paint than BU. The Bears played well enough to win, but A&M played virtually flawless down the stretch and got a huge boost from a near-delirious crowd in College Station.
The Ags will be in for a dogfight in nearly three weeks when the rivalry is renewed in Waco.
With a win earlier this week over Mizzou added to Saturday's triumph over Baylor, A&M will likely replace the Bears in the AP top 25, only adding to a bitter rivalry that appears to be escalating to points never before reached.
Truth be told, Baylor has probably never been on the receiving end of such venomous hatred from a student section as they endured from the Reed Arena faithful Saturday. The Aggie crowd was relentless during several key stretches, smelled blood when it was time for the home team to make a run and unquestionably helped elevate the maroon and white. They also swayed a lot.
That's where Baylor as a program is right now, believe it or not. That's what comes with a national ranking, heightened exposure and the understanding that this team coming into your gym is capable of punching you in the mouth and embarrassing the home team.
The Bears and their fans (in particular the students) will have a chance to punch back and `hold serve' in Waco on the 24th of this month. We're all thinking 17 days can't get here soon enough.