All These Things That I've Done 2:25 P.M., MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2012
As the buildup to March begins, the Bears enter the final week of the regular season with a lot on the line. The Bears are one win away from sweeping not just all of Texas, but also the entire Big 12 `south.' They'll play Iowa State Saturday night with third place in the conference on the line and they'll have plenty at stake when they head to Kansas City for the conference tournament.
Along with BU's certain berth in the big dance this year, is the already solidified and cemented legacy that this team's three seniors will leave at Baylor. While it bares mentioning that this spring will be the fourth consecutive senior class that can lay claim to be the school's `winningest,' this year's departing trio will leave Waco with the basketball program having never been more acclaimed.
Quincy Acy, Fred Ellis and Anthony Jones, all on pace to graduate (in fact, Ellis will be earning his master's degree), have notched 94 victories since stepping foot on campus. If they close out the regular season with a pair of victories this week, the school's record for regular season victories will fall.
If they take care of business beyond that, the school's record for wins in a season (28) will be in jeopardy.
That same record was set by this class as sophomores.
The cynics among us know that this team won't be judged by regular season victories, however. Baylor basketball has arrived at a place where fans no longer are giddy about winning seasons, NCAA appearances, or even dominance against our biggest rivals. The bar has been raised.
These seniors are the reason for that.
Baylor's senior class two and even four years ago were deservedly congratulated for their transformation of the program. They arrived at a program with much less credibility, namesake and belief.
In 2008, the momentum started with the school's first NCAA berth in 20 years. We said it then, getting over the hump and proving that Baylor could compete in the Big 12 would be paramount.
Two years later, a senior-carried team led BU to the elite eight. That year established traction. Baylor was no longer a cute story, but rather a team that others would circle on their calendar.
Again, two years later, Baylor will return to the dance. A household name, people know their stars, fans know Scott Drew. Everyone seems sure that Baylor will not be an easy out.
This group will have played in the postseason in three different seasons. They will have played in a Big 12 tournament championship game, the NIT championship game and an NCAA Regional Championship. In their senior season, this group will have an opportunity to overcome defeats in each of these games.
Doing so would truly immortalize their legacy.
Imagine 10:25 A.M., WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2012
A little less than five weeks from now, Baylor will once again hear their name called as an NCAA tournament participant. It will be our third such invite in the Drew era, it will be time to toast to a great regular season.
How great this regular season will be remembered will likely be determined this week, however.
At 8-2 in the conference, the Bears have equipped themselves with a great chance at winning their first conference championship. They've recovered from a pair of painstaking losses with four straight nail-biting wins.
Now come the rematches against Kansas and Mizzou.
With the conference's new format, BU will get a second shot at 'north' teams. Fortunately, this gives the Bears an opportunity for enacting revenge, this time with a healthy Perry Jones III. Conversely, this means the Bears possible undefeated record against the 'south' could get outweighed as the balance of power has shifted towards the Mason-Dixon line.
Either way, Baylor's next two games are not 'big' or 'must wins' or 'bubble bursters.' They're bigger than ever and also likely to determine which Big 12 entry receives something much bigger than invitation to the dance on Selection Sunday.
I'm talking, of course, about a one seed.
The task of taking care of business this week is daunting, make no mistake. Baylor will have to overcome an 18 point whipping in Lawrence and do a lot of things differently to beat KU this time around.
It's not likely the Bears will play as sloppy and rattled. It's not likely KU will play with the same poise and fortune as they did at Allen Fieldhouse last month. If Baylor can get great performances from Jones, Quincy Miller and maybe some more late game magic from Pierre Jackson, the Bears should win.
Beating Mizzou might be even tougher. The Tigers are now 3-0 against the conference's top four teams and though they have stumbled twice, they have been solidified as the team to beat. The Bears would be wise to rethink the game plan, address their likely rebounding advantage against MU and, again, get the ball to Jones to establish an interior presence.
Baylor has not defeated the Jayhawks in Waco in 11 years, they have never won at Mizzou arena. They have never won a Big 12 Championship. The stakes have never been higher.
With March Madness looming closer and closer, imagine the possibilities if both teams get our best punch.