Unexpected Success for 2018-19 Baylor Men’s Basketball

Basketball team for Baylor

The 2018-19 Baylor men’s basketball team was initially written off by most media and sports outlets, labeled as the ninth-ranked team (out of 10) in the Big 12 preseason polls. Returning only four players from last year’s squad, including senior G King McClure and Jake Lindsey and sophomore F Mark Vital and Tristan Clark, head coach Scott Drew flipped a dire situation on its head and led his team to the second round of the NCAA tournament (a trip to the big dance for the fifth time in six years!). Unfortunately, Lindsey missed the entire season due to surgery on his hip, which later resulted in his retirement from Baylor basketball altogether. And in January, Clark, arguably one of the best players on the team, went out for the season after injuring his left knee. By the time Clark took a spot on the bench, the Bears already recorded six losses including heart breakers against Texas Southern and Stephen F. Austin in Waco. The remainder of the season seemed grim for Baylor basketball as the Bears lost two of their reliable starters and had to fill the court with freshmen, transfers, and a walk on. However, all was not lost when Baylor fans witnessed the magic in a combination of redshirt junior F Freddie Gillespie, senior G Makai Mason, freshman G Jared Butler, and junior G Devonte Bandoo (along with Vital), who saw victories over then-ranked No. 19 Iowa State (twice), then-ranked No. 8 Texas Tech, West Virginia (twice), a thriller against Texas at home, and more, finishing their season with a 20-14 record and 10-8 in the Big 12. Baylor basketball closed the season not as No. 9 in the conference (as predicted), but as No. 3 after Texas Tech and Kansas State tied for first place! The Bears even took a trip to the tournament, which they did not qualify for last year, where, as a ninth seed, they defeated eight-seed Syracuse, 78-69, before falling 71-83 against one-seed Gonzaga in the second round. Although the team loses McClure and Mason next year, they’ll return the remainder of the roster for what one can only predict will be a fantastic 2019-20 season!