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One True Champion: Baylor’s Core Four Power Another Victory as Baylor Definitively Wins the Big 12

Baylor’s Amen—the core four of Mitchell, Butler, Teague and Vital—finish their regular season careers with a 91% win percentage

Waco, Texas- As confetti poured over the middle of the court, MaCio Teague—fresh off the greatest shooting day in Baylor basketball history (10-of-12 from deep)—took the microphone on senior day. He finished his speech saying, “We not done yet.”

The Bears don’t appear close to done. They’ll head to Kansas City the clear favorites to win the Big 12 Tournament, as betting sites make them a 4:7 favorite to win the conference tournament. Baylor finished the season with an 88-73 victory over Texas Tech.

Despite playing four fewer games than some Big 12 teams, Baylor won more games than any Big 12 team. The Bears finished undefeated at home for the first time in the Drew era too.

This was quite a turnaround from last Saturday. The Bears fell to Kansas 71-58 in the Bear’s second game back from COVID-19. The Bears seemed a step slow. MaCio Teague met with the media after the Kansas loss and said, “Sometimes your shots don’t fall.”

Today they did. The Bears were 15-of-24 from deep. Teague finished with 35 points, his Baylor career high. He started 10-of-11 from three. With his performance today, Baylor has six players that finished the regular season shooting at least 40% from deep.

On a day of celebration, the Bears honored their seniors. Tristan Clark went through the festivities after medically retiring before the campaign. He said, “I didn’t finish my career the way I wanted, but I’m glad I found a second home in Waco. Sic ‘Em Bears!”

Vital had a fantastic day too. Donning a facemask after an injury, he finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds—perhaps the ideal Vital statline. He locked up Mac McClung to prevent Tech from making a run in the second half.

Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell also had good days. They haven’t made a decision on whether to go pro, but with both slotted as first round picks on NBA mock drafts, there’s a good chance this was also their final game in Waco. The pair combined for 35 points and 12 assists.

The core four of Mitchell, Butler, Teague and Vital started 46 regular seasons games at Baylor. They finished with 42 wins, which equals a 91% win percentage. They ended a 71 year history without a conference title at Baylor. They’ll earn the school’s first No. 1 seed in the modern era too.

Beyond that, they’ve set the program on a path to sustained success. They helped recruit Adam Flagler, a possible Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. And they had the kind of success that helped Drew and his staff secure one of the best recruiting classes in the country next year.

They overcame a COVID pause and the loss of a chance to win a national title last season when the season ended abruptly. The season may end with heartache in March. Gonzaga, Baylor, Michigan and Illinois have solidified No. 1 seeds. At least three of them are going to have a devastating end to the campaign.

Regardless of how it ends in March or April, they’ve completed the best regular season in Baylor basketball history. That core fueled a new culture, and new expectations. Baylor’s athletic director Mack Rhoades took the microphone as the celebration started and said, “The best basketball coach in the country, Scott Drew.”

Inspired by the season, Drew shouted out each coach and player as they took turns climbing the ladder to remove the nets in the Ferrell Center. With where the four have taken Baylor, Drew said, “We promise you it won’t take 71 years next time.”

With where Drew’s taken the program, that seems like a safe bet.