11:55 A.M., TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2011
The Bears enter the middle week of the conference schedule and with eight conference games under their belt, one thing remains unanimous among the college basketball talking heads; this Baylor team is exceptionally talented.
Maddening at times? Sure.
Capable of beating anybody if and when Perry Jones is healthy? You bet.
The sixth-ranked Bears take to the road this week for a pair of very dangerous tilts in College Station and Stillwater. Both teams are un-ranked, both teams are fully capable of beating top ten teams on their home floor.
So is life in the Big 12 Conference again this year.
Kansas was reminded just how hard it is to win in Ames last Saturday, losing to Iowa State by seven. Mizzou didn't pass a relatively feasible road test last week in Stillwater. Kansas State, who appears destined to give coach Frank Martin an ulcer, lost in Norman to the Sooners.
With their lone road loss coming at the Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Baylor still sits pretty with a pair of losses that will be nothing more than minor blemishes come Selection Sunday.
The next two weeks, of course, will be integral in determining if this team can put itself right back in the thick of things in the conference race. Take care of business this week away from Waco, play to their potential next week and Baylor will be sitting atop the conference standings and we can start salivating over the possibility of being a one seed.
Waiting for BU this week is a hungry and irritable Texas A&M team who can still play when they decide to. They took KU to the wire last week in Lawrence and then disposed of Oklahoma State rather easily at home.
A victory at Reed Arena in what will undoubtedly be the school's last meeting for quite some time would be a sweet conclusion to what was quickly blossoming into the state's premiere basketball rivalry.
Winning in College Station is never easy, especially with the stakes as high as they are this year, just ask Robert Griffin.
Very similar to the challenge awaiting Baylor Wednesday night in Aggieland will be the task of finding a win at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater on Saturday.
Both A&M and OSU have struggled on the road this year, both are currently on the outside looking in with the tourney approaching, both will rely on a healthy home court advantage.
As for Baylor, you could argue that they've amassed their six conference wins relatively quietly. They've won three of four both at home and on the road.
A look closer shows that BU is building a true home court advantage at the Ferrell Center. Having achieved advance sellouts in each of their last two games, Baylor has been afforded an electric atmosphere to call home and a menacing atmosphere for opponents to contend with.
Saturday may have been just a win over an unranked Texas team, but let's not overlook that it came on CBS in front of a packed, rabid gym full of our fans and our fans only.
For as much as we talk about the importance and difficulty of winning on the road in this conference, it's equally critical to create an environment like Saturday's each time Baylor entertains a guest.
Fans in College Station and Stillwater will confirm what I'm talking about this week.
Show Me The Way
10:30 A.M., FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2011
Baylor hoops hit their first bump in the road this week as BU took their lumps in an 18 point thumping on the road to KU. The Bears, winners of 17 straight heading into the game, looked anything but a composed, capable and undefeated team in bowing out to the conference's premier basketball program.
Thankfully, it is only one loss and thankfully it is only the third week in January.
For a team that seemingly looked ready to take on any challenge by pulling out nail-biting wins over BYU, West Virginia, Mississippi State and Kansas State, Baylor looked every bit the part of Kansas' little brother. KU dominated the boards, played incredibly disciplined and basically let BU become its own worst enemy.
Nobody now argues that the road to the Big 12 Conference title still runs through Lawrence.
13 games remain in the regular season for the Bears, there is of course plenty of time to earn the seeding that will properly fit this dangerous, talented and deep team come tournament time. BU will find out quickly exactly how many teams stand between them and Kansas as Mizzou comes to Waco this weekend. In only two weeks the conference schedule will essentially `reset' and the second half of the league's round robin will resume.
Need I remind anyone that this means we're not done with the Jayhawks this year?
Lots of questions are likely to be answered in the coming games as BU unquestionably enters its most challenging set of games. Will the team stick with the zone defense that's defined Scott Drew and the program for a number of years? What type of production are we going to start to expect from non -starters like Corey Jefferson and Gary Franklin? What can the team do offensively when their opponents prove capable of completely shutting down Brady Heslip?
With five conference games in the book, Baylor fans need not look past the fact that the Bears have already notched two road wins. We'd be kidding ourselves with any aspirations of running the table in this league so stockpiling victories; however they come and regardless of the opponent, on the road are going to be critical.
After that, naturally, Baylor most do everything possible to `hold serve' at home, where they have been flawless.
BU took advantage of a huge crowd last weekend during its most recent performance in Waco, a 41 point shellacking of Oklahoma State.
The first ranked opponent to play in the Ferrell Center arrives Saturday. The game is already sold out.
If the Bears are ready to show to everyone that the Kansas loss was an aberration and that they are still as dangerous of a team as there is in America, Mizzou would probably be wise to stay on the bus.
How Far We've Come
10:30 A.M., MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2011
I gotta be honest, as the clock struck 12 last Saturday night, officially ringing in 2012, I greeted the new year with mixed emotions.
2011, a year that saw Baylor football hit previously unreachable heights of exposure was over. We still do not know the fate of RG3's NFL decision (as of press time), and thus, we really do not know what 2012 will hold.
That doesn't mean we can't still celebrate the 2011 season. Even if for just one more column, right?
Along with TV ratings that will show Alabama vs LSU was the lowest watched National Championship in 20 years, the final polls will be released this Tuesday. Baylor will finish in the top 10 in the BCS and just a few spots behind in virtually every other poll. We will be reminded again of what a dream season it was.
In amassing 10 wins for only the second time in the program's history, the Bears did so much more than restore pride and hope for a previously down-trodden operation.
Let's think of it this way, how many times in the last two months have you been approached while wearing BU colors, been given a congratulatory hello or answered questions about the school's athletic success?
I understand I'm probably in the minority of people who A) never stopped wearing green and gold on football Fridays and B) make a point of letting people know exactly who my team is. This is, of course, customary while living in Mizzou country.
While Baylor football rewrote the record books and Robert Griffin brought the school its first Heisman Trophy, the program truly transformed what it meant for many of us to call ourselves 'Baylor fans.'
I'm sure you have friends that are naysayers. Buddies that had jumped ship from pulling for their Alma Mater many years ago. Acquaintances that opted against swallowing their pride and instead, claimed their school, but not it's athletics.
Oh how far we've come.
After all, Baylor for so many years had been 'typical Baylor.' They had 'Baylor'd' so many games before. Oh, and at the end of the day, Baylor had to also live with the fact that 'we're Baylor.'
You've heard all those expressions, undoubtedly.
Let it be known that those isms are not only unacceptable now, they're wildly inaccurate. BU football won in every way imaginable in 2011. They won games where they lead from beginning to end, the won games by making big plays when it mattered most, by forcing turnovers when they had to, and more often, by scoring last.
Last Thursday's legendary Alamo Bowl performance confirmed the team's ability to be clutch once again. The Bears erased an 18 point second half deficit, continued scoring, caught a few breaks, continued scoring some more, made the defensive stand it had to and then scored once more for good measure.
It was a fitting way to end the season. A fitting final memory of a team that did the previously unthinkable: gave Baylor fans confidence that we could win regardless of the circumstances.
That's how good this team was. That's how good this year was.
2012 is here, with it are two Baylor basketball teams that will keep people wondering what they're putting in the water in Waco. As of Sunday, the much-discussed streak stands at 36. Baylor is in a position it has never been in before.
If the dominance continues on the hardwood, it will be typical Baylor.