The Baylor Bears' 2013-2014 season is now over after a performance few expected to see in a round where few expected to play. The Bears fell tonight in relatively embarrassing fashion, getting shoved around on offense and passed around on defense by a Wisconsin team that saw Baylor's wins over Nebraska and Creighton and wasn't impressed. Led by Frank Kaminsky, who just schooled Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson on the inside, Wisconsin got up and stayed there. Every time Baylor thought it could get something going, the Badgers responded, never relinquishing control of the game for even a minute.
The narratives are flying pretty fast right now on twitter about how this happened, how the Bears looked so bad just days after looking so good. The prevailing negative opinion seems to be that Baylor exposed an overrated Creighton and were exposed in turn by Wisconsin. It's obviously much more nuanced than that. After a very poor start where we missed layup after layup and Wisconsin eviscerated the zone, the same things that doomed us early this season started up again. In front of family and friends, Gary Franklin pressed on offense early and took too many shots. Austin and Jefferson lost the battle inside against Kaminsky, repeatedly. Rico Gathers was a complete non-factor, as was Brady Heslip. The offense as a whole missed too many shots, didn't get the rebounds upon which it thrives, and ground completely to a halt. Losing is a team effort made up of a number of individual ones, and we lost those individual efforts.
I've seen people blaming Scott Drew for Baylor's play tonight, and on the macro level, I suppose that makes a bit of sense. Coaches get credit for wins and blame for losses all the time. I have a hard time imagining, however, what he could have done to make the absolute outcome of this game any different. He can't make shots for his guys, block out for rebounds, or play defense. Even if he had the eligibility, you don't want him out there on Kaminsky. I don't think it was scheme or preparation-- things a coach impacts directly-- that cost Baylor the game tonight. Wisconsin just played better-- significantly so-- throughout.
On a different, and much more positive, note, I remain extremely proud and excited by the way this team turned their season around. Knowing that Jefferson, Franklin, Brady Heslip, and probably Austin finished their Baylor careers with another Tournament run makes me personally happy. All of them have represented Baylor impeccably in their time here and will go forward, whether in the NBA or otherwise, doing the same. They will fling their green and gold afar as countless Baylor legends before them, yet they will be Bears always.
The next time we see the Baylor Men's Basketball team take the court, it will look like a very different group than the one that lost to Wisconsin tonight. But those that remain will no doubt be better for the experience, and we'll be there to cheer them on when they do.