Baylor basketball has held on to their #1 ranking for almost a month, a stark difference from the last time the Bears held the top spot in the 2016-2017 season. But if you have tuned in any of the last few games, you know they haven’t always been amazing. There have been long stretches of sporadic offense, poor free throw shooting, and frustrating turnovers. In short, Baylor has played down to their competition recently. The Bears have let some of the bottom feeder teams in the conference (Texas & KSU) linger around, as well as barely surviving home games against both Oklahoma teams. If we’re being honest, the Bears have not always played like the dominant top team of the country that is expected from fans. Thankfully, however, the lack of inspired play at times has yet to yield any sort of negative results.
When the lights have shined the brightest, this Baylor team has always risen to the occasion. The Bears have wins against Villanova, Arizona, Butler, and Kansas; all of which were ranked teams when they met Baylor. And then there are the games where the Bears have been able come away with wins on the road in hostile environments. Baylor beat Texas Tech in Lubbock soundly in early January and then followed that up with a win on the road against Florida in a game where many experts picked the #1 ranked Bears to lose. And it’s not just the games themselves that reveal the character of this team, but also individual players, the most obvious being Jared Butler. It’s almost as if we don’t see his true capability as a player until the team is facing adversity. Obviously against Kansas when we needed him the most he stepped up in a huge way with a conference play high 22 points, but throughout the season even if he is not having one of his stronger performances, he seemingly still finds a way to make a tough basket at the most opportune times.
It has been a few weeks since Baylor has had a marquee matchup and that’s why I am glad that the next game is a game against a formidable West Virginia squad. Baylor still has a tough road ahead with two against West Virginia, Kansas, and a road trip to Norman against an Oklahoma team that will be looking for a statement win that will lock them into the NCAA tournament. Fans have got to be wondering, which Baylor will show up? The one that had to squeak by some of the worst teams in the conference, or the team that has taken down five ranked teams. Fans await Saturday’s ballgame to see if the current trend of Baylor elevating their game when it matters most will continue.