Scott Drew is head coach of the defending national champions and his Baylor Bears are picked to finish third in the Big 12, according to the league’s preseason poll.
To Drew, that just tells you how deep the league is, when the defending champion isn’t considered the favorite. But he has a dream even beyond trying to become the first team to repeat as national champion since Florida in 2006 and 2007.
He’d like some company in the Final Four this year.
“You look at the last three Final Fours and we’ve had a Big 12 team in each one,” Drew said at Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday. “We’ve had the most teams in the NCAA Tournament since 2014. Personally, coaches are always trying to have goals and what you want to accomplish. I’d love to have three (Big 12) teams in the Final Four at one time. Our league has never done that. You need some luck, but this year is a possibility.”
Kansas made the Final Four in 2018, and Texas Tech made the Final Four in 2019. There was no Final Four in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Big East sent three teams to the Final Four in 1985, a tournament won by Villanova. The Big 12 has sent two teams to the Final Four in its history.
The Bears won their first national championship in April, beating the Gonzaga Bulldogs in Indianapolis, 86-70. Along the way, the Bears went 28-2, won a conference regular-season title for the first time since 1950 and sent two players to opening-night NBA rosters — guard Jared Butler (Utah) and guard Davion Mitchell (Sacramento). Another guard, MaCio Teague, was cut at the end of the preseason and is looking for a roster spot. The Bears’ last guard, Mark Vital, went to the NBA Summer League and is now learning to be a tight end with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Bears do return plenty of talent from last year’s team, most notably guard Adam Flager, along with forwards Matthew Mayer, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Flo Thamba. The Bears had a solid recruiting class in the pipeline from last season, including guard L.J. Cryer, and two potential impact players in the 2021 class — Langston Love and Kendall Brown. The Bears also took in a significant transfer in guard James Akinjo and a Division II prospect in Dale Bonner.
The Bears open the season at home on Nov. 12 against Incarnate Word, a night during which the Bears will likely raise their national championship banner in the Ferrell Center.
Heartland College Sports Big 12 Basketball Preview
Top 25 Returning Players: No. 25 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua| No. 24 Christian Braun | No. 23 Rondel Walker | No. 22 Umoja Gibson | No. 21 Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe | No. 20 Nijel Pack | No. 19: Marcus Santos-Silva | No. 18 Mike McGuirl| No. 17 Jalen Bridges | No. 16 Kalib Boone | No. 15 Kevin McCullar | No. 14 Isaac Likekele | No. 13 Adam Flagler | No. 12 Jalen Coleman-Lands | No. 11 Sean McNeil | No. 10 Taz Sherman
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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