(CBSDFW.com)- In a season filled with the anarchy that normally waits until March, Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears have been the model of consistency.
Since losing to Washington in the Armed Forces Classic on November 8th, the Bears have rattled off 19 straight victories en route to the AP No. 1 ranking and their recent 73-67 win over Kansas State Monday night to start Big 12 play. Included in that winning streak are victories over four current Top 25 teams (Villanova, Arizona, Butler, Kansas) and one team that was ranked at the time of their matchup (Texas Tech). It’s just the second time in program history that the Bears have reached the top spot in the AP Poll. The only other time happened during the 2016-17 season, also with Drew leading the way.
While the narrative surrounding Baylor in recent years has been that they can’t win come tournament time, it’s worth reflecting on just how far this program has come in Drew’s tenure as head coach. As CBS Sports college basketball insider Gary Parrish notes, Drew took over a program in turmoil 17 years ago following the death of Patrick Dennehy at the hands of teammate Carlton Dotson.
After slowly rebuilding in the first several seasons, Drew has elevated the program to a perennial tournament team and, in recent years, a highly seeded one. That’s not to be quickly dismissed.
“What he has done in general is incredible, and it is, in my opinion, the greatest rebuilding job in the history of college basketball. He inherited, 17 years ago, an unimaginable situation,” said Parrish. “The idea that he has built it into one of the most consistent winners in the country? Even though there is nothing in the history of that program that suggests it should be? It is just an incredible job.”
This year’s team is no different, as Drew has taken a group of talented, but not necessarily highly sought-after players, and developed them into a group that has put together one of the best seasons in the country.
“The job that he has done with this team is obviously incredible. I mean, we did think that Baylor would be good, they were a preseason Top 25 team,” said Parrish. “But we didn’t think Baylor would be sitting here as a one-loss team entering February with a win over Kansas inside Phog Allen Fieldhouse, seven quadrant one wins and a perfect Big 12 record. That is remarkable stuff.”
It isn’t just the AP that thinks highly of the Bears performance this season either. Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings have the Bears ranked as the third-best team in the country behind only Kansas and Duke. They have been dominant defensively (fourth in defensive efficiency) and well above average on offense as well, rating 21st in Pomeroy’s adjusted-offensive efficiency metric. With nine games left before the conference tournament, the Bears hold the tiebreaker over the Jayhawks by virtue of that head-to-head win. If they can close the season strong, their first-ever Big 12 regular season title is in reach.
But, regardless of where the season ultimately ends up, Parrish notes that he believes Drew has a strong case to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I know he hasn’t been to a Final Four yet, and I know that he hasn’t won a national championship yet,” said Parrish. “But those things are possible this season and either way, he has a strong case to someday be a Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer because of what he took over and where he has brought it.”
That induction is likely a little ways off still, and Drew has a team that Parrish says could be in the hunt for that national title this season. For now, they’ll focus on the next task at hand with the Oklahoma State Cowboys coming to town this Saturday with tip set for 5 p.m. CST.