When Baylor University’s men’s basketball team rose to the number two spot in the Associated Press top 25 poll last week, it was the loftiest ranking the program had ever reached. And the undefeated Bears will likely move up to the top of the pile when the newest poll releases next week since current number one Villanova lost to Butler on Wednesday. It’s a big deal for the men’s team at Baylor, which has surprised pretty much everyone by rolling through a tough schedule so far, featuring wins over Oregon, Xavier, and Louisville, who were ranked, at the time, fourth, seventh, and tenth, respectively. That’s quite a comeback for a team that was unranked heading into this season.
If you step back and look at Baylor’s success from a historical, statewide perspective, it becomes even more impressive. Should Baylor take care of business at home against Oklahoma State on Saturday—the team’s only matchup before the the new poll comes out on Monday—and assume the top rank, they will be the second men’s basketball team from Texas to claim the number one spot. The only other time a Lone Star State squad rose to the top of the men’s rankings was back in the 2008-2009 season, when the University of Texas was briefly ranked number one. Strangely, the Longhorns’ ascension came at the same point in the season as Baylor’s—they held the top spot in the polls released for weeks nine and ten, before their season fell off the rails and eventually ended in a loss in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Of course, the 1966 Texas Western (now the University of Texas at El Paso) team remains the only Texas men’s squad to win a basketball championship, but the AP didn’t do a post-season poll back then, so they were never officially ranked number one.
The Baylor men’s team is far from a basketball powerhouse, so this is all new and exciting for the dudes in neon green. Baylor is a familiar sight, however, on the AP women’s basketball rankings. The Lady Bears—currently number two—have been one of college basketball’s best programs in the past decade or so, winning national championships in 2005 and 2012.
But it is rare for a school to have both of its basketball programs so highly ranked. It’s a laborious statistic to track, but a quick glance at weekly polls over the past ten years or so show that Baylor is in elite company at the moment—few times has the same school had its teams reach a cumulatively better ranking. The University of Connecticut has twice ended the college basketball season with champions on the men’s and women’s side (the team is a familiar foe for the Baylor women, and they’re currently the only team ranked ahead of the Lady Bears, as well as the only team to defeat them so far this season), but other than the Huskies, it doesn’t seem like any other school in recent history has done what Baylor is doing right now.
Still, there is a lot of season left, and it’s unlikely that both teams will finish the season as NCAA champions. But that doesn’t mean the Bears shouldn’t savor their glory on the basketball court.