Scott Drew spent his first three years as Baylor basketball coach losing. Not that it was his fault. Crooked predecessor Dave Bliss left him a mushroom cloud as thick as the one Art Briles left Matt Rhule.
Drew started winning in year four. He started winning big in year five, but we snickered anyhow. The Bears had a tendency to squander good situations. Drew had them playing a lazy zone defense despite their obvious athleticism.
It didn’t help Drew’s cause you have half expected him to blow up balloons at his press conferences. He was so enthusiastic it felt like an act.
Meanwhile, peers were either slow to warm to him or quick to accuse him of taking shortcuts to success.
Drew made a couple Elite Eights in 2010 and ’12. That did help his cause. He won an NIT. He reeled off a string of 20-win seasons. He drew a $3 million salary. He carried on despite the critics and the snickering.
This is Drew’s 17th season in Waco. He is threatening to make it his best one yet, the Bears being 13-1, ranked No. 2 and coming off a week in which they won at Texas Tech and at Kansas.
Baylor won in Lubbock despite the Red Raiders’ dogged efforts and Chris Beard’s constant attempts to incite his home fans. The Bears won in Allen Fieldhouse. Enough said.
The Bears won both places because they played tougher defense – it was a man-to-man for the record – and they made more plays. They seemed more together, quite a feat since the roster is a mishmash of DI, DIII and JUCO transfers, high school signees from Texas and Louisiana, and players from Canada, Cameroon and the Congo.
“Give Baylor credit,” KU coach Bill Self said after falling 67-55. “They were better than us, better prepared and better coached with everything today.”
The "better coached" line stuck out. The Bears truly were better coached, Drew handling Self by a considerable margin.
A guy ought to get credit for that, don’t you think? Drew ought to get credit for a lot of things, besides what he has done this season.
Seems our fault for being so stubborn for so long about giving it to him.
On with this week's Big 12 countdown...
1 – Baylor
Record: 13-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big 12
NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) ranking: 1 (was 5)
This week’s schedule: Wed vs. Iowa State, 7 pm; Sat at Oklahoma State, 11 am
Not that it matters in the big picture – the NET is a more useful , but it’s a crock that Baylor isn’t No. 1 in the AP poll this week.
2 – Kansas
NET: 5 (was 2)
This week: Tues at OU, 8 pm; Sat at Texas, 1 pm
This is a talented but fragile KU team, same as last year. The ’19 Jayhawks were undone by Udoka Azubuike’s injured hand. Keep an eye on Devon Dotson’s hip.
3 – West Virginia
NET: 10 (was 12)
This week: Tues vs. TCU, 8 pm; Sat at Kansas State, 1 pm
The Mountaineers don’t harass you with their full court press this year. They guard you even harder in half court instead. It’s still a root canal to deal with.
4 – Texas Tech
NET: 36 (was 28)
This week: Tues at K-State, 7 pm; Sat vs. Iowa State, 3 pm
Beard did a phenomenal job of replacing proven production with promising talent last year and Tech made the national final. He’s having a tougher time replacing Jarrett Culver and company this season.
5 – Oklahoma
NET: 46 (was 43)
This week: Tues vs. Kansas, 8 pm; Sat vs. TCU, 1 pm
Guards De’Vion Harmon and Jamal Bieniemy combined to shoot 8-for-12 while contributing five rebounds, six assists and no turnovers to OU’s win at Texas last week. Encouraging.
6 – TCU
NET: 51 (was 72)
This week: Tues at West Virginia, 8 pm; Sat at OU, 1 pm
Still no love from Joe Lunardi – the ESPN bracketologist kept TCU out of his mock NCAA Tournament field this week – but look at that NET rise. The Frogs will take a split this week.
7 – Texas
NET: 66 (was 75)
This week: Wed at OSU, 7 pm; Sat vs. Kansas, 1 pm
I watched a good chunk of OU’s win in Austin last week. I think I was more impressed with the Sooners than discouraged by the Longhorns, but it was close.
8 – Iowa State
NET: 70 (was 81)
This week: Wed at Baylor, 7 pm; Sat at Texas Tech, 3 pm
I also watched quite a bit of ISU’s loss to Kansas last week. That’s as dreadfully as I can remember the Cyclones ever playing at Hilton Coliseum. Let’s just say they HAD to have their bounceback game against OU.
9 – Kansas State
NET: 101 (was 92)
This week: Tues vs. Texas Tech, 7 pm; Sat vs. West Virginia, 1 pm
The last time K-State scored 70 or more points was against Alabama State Dec. 11.
10 – Oklahoma State
NET: 69 (was 55)
This week: Wed vs. Texas, 7 pm; Sat vs. Baylor, 1 pm
The Cowboys are in their worst offensive funk since Henry Iba neared the end of his legendary OSU run 50 years ago. Seriously, how do you spit out 131 points over a three-game stretch in 2020?