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Baylor Basketball Is Having A Moment

The Bears and Lady Bears are each ranked number two in the nation.

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Johnathan Motley #5 of the Baylor Bears celebrates after dunking against the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half at Ferrell Center on January 4, 2017 in Waco, Texas.
Tom Pennington/Getty

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.

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  • St. Anger

    “If you step back and look at Baylor’s success from a historical, statewide perspective, it becomes even more impressive. ”

    if you step back and look at it from the perspective of its rape and murder victims … not so much.

    • JakeCarey

      These kids have not raped or murdered anyone. And what other schools where rapes have occurred, such as Florida State, Stanford, Harvard, North Carolina and many others, have taken the drastic steps that Baylor has taken to deal with the problem. Which other school has fired its President, its football couch, and suspended its athletic director. And an accused rapist from one of these schools has gone on to fame in the NFL, but nobody is talking about him or that school. Rape is an epidemic in our universities, but it didn’t start In Waco, Texas. I suggest you watch the documentary “The Hunting Ground” on Netflix to get a broader picture of rape at our universities, and Baylor is not even mentioned.

      • St. Anger

        As the only “Christian” school on your list, you don’t think Baylor should hold itself to a higher standard?

        If not, what does it even mean to call Baylor “baptist”?

        I don’t support any school that continues to play games in the face of a rape epidemic. My alma mater is on your list, for example, but you don’t see me defending them as you are doing.

        Good luck with your allegiance, baptist (whatever that means).

        • JakeCarey

          Probably Baylor believes it should have higher standards than secular schools, but I think the only standard for any school, Christian or not, should be for zero rapes. I suspect you agree.

          Again I don’t think you have to be baptist to oppose rape.

          I’m not defending what happened at Baylor. It is what it is and hopefully the steps being taken will prevent it from happening again. However, school life must go on for the thousands of students not involved and who continue to attend the university. At least that’s my opinion.

          I’m not a baptist, but I did attend Baylor and I have an allegiance to it as I’m sure you do to your university. Thanks for wishing me good luck. I and the rest of the Baylor family need it.

          • St. Anger

            Actually, no. I graduated from Stanford, and I have cut ties to the school, largely due to their mishandling of rapes by athletes.

          • JakeCarey

            I am impressed by your strong position on rape. I salute you. However, Stanford is a great school in many ways. I would prefer that you try to improve Stanford’s future handling of rape on it’s campus. Don’t we owe that to all the kids there who would never commit rape.

    • Randy Tucker

      Don’t even know how to respond to this comment. You are probably one of those people that piss on other people’s pants leg and then tell them it’s raining.

  • Will Phipps

    Is Houston not in Texas? They dominated in the 80s and were ranked #1 on his own link to cite his stat. Poor research from this author and probably not a basketball fan.

    Anyways…. sic em bears! #1 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/281e9a97cde599db1276c9197c3a414b732e30008b1f5b89f4483a6105ddf790.jpg