The Bears just suffered their worst loss of the season. And with it, they’ll need Kansas to drop one of their next two games to have a shot at winning the Big 12.
As sad as Baylor probably not winning the Big 12 is, the Bears are well-positioned to be a No. 1 seed. They have 10 quadrant one victories (home wins against top 30 teams, neutral wins against top 50 teams and road wins against top 75 teams). Outside of Kansas, none of the other teams on the No. 1 or No. 2 seed line have more than seven.
Baylor has been good over the last month. Yes, they’ve lost two-of-three games, but one of those games was by three to Kansas. Over the 29 days in February, Baylor ranked 3rd in the country in adjusted efficiency (and that includes West Virginia and Kansas State making runs in garbage time). On Tuesday, Baylor led by 34 against Kansas State and ended up winning by 19. Kansas only beat them by four today.
The TCU loss doesn’t portend much. Plenty of the best championship teams lose late road games to teams about as good as TCU (No. 81 on KenPom). The 2008 Jayhawks, the best ranked championship team since 2002 on KenPom, lost to No. 75 Oklahoma State on February 23rd. 2018 Villanova lost to No. 63 providence on February 14th. 2017 North Carolina and 2010 Duke both lost by double digits on the road to sub 50 teams.
Scott Drew also has a few moves he can make. With the season ending, Jared Butler can play more minutes, as he’s sat at least five minutes in every game this year. Matt Mayer has been a reliable presence and should get more time at power forward, which will open up the offense with another shooter. Macio Teague passed up some good threes today, but he’s drilled big triples late against Kansas and TCU.
The loss matters. The 2020 Bears are the best team in program history. Freddie Gillespie, a man who ranks fourth in KenPom’s Big 12 player of the year race, will not be back next season. Devonte Bandoo will be gone too. And there’s an okay chance somebody in the rotation will elect to go pro. Next year’s future is unknowable.
This season is still incredibly bright though. Over a 28 game season, Baylor is one of the country’s top teams. They’re 25-3 and 14-2 in the Big 12. Not since the 2012 Jayhawks (a team that played for the national title) had a Big 12 team started 14-2 or better in this league. The final six minutes on Saturday weren’t great, but the Bears have been great enough over the course of this season to win a national title. They can still do that.