No. 6 Baylor braces for stern test from rival Texas
WACO, Texas — Baylor’s reign as the nation’s top-ranked men’s basketball team was short-lived.
The Bears flew through the first two months of this season, compiling a 15-0 record. Baylor’s stockpile of impressive victories over Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville and Xavier helped the Bears ascend from unranked to the No. 1 slot last Monday.
And then, a little more than 24 hours after Baylor reached the top, 10th-ranked West Virginia demolished the Bears, 89-68, in Morgantown, W. Va.
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So now a new week begins with a familiar foe. Baylor (16-1, 4-1 Big 12) hosts Texas (7-10, 1-4) on Tuesday.
Sixth-ranked Baylor, which won at Kansas State on Saturday, never got a chance to play in front of its home crowd as the nation’s top-ranked team. But Bears fans will probably find it easy to get up for the rival Longhorns, especially since Baylor is still very much in the hunt to end Kansas’ streak of 12 consecutive Big 12 titles.
Baylor coach Scott Drew said his team showed the ability to keep looking forward, which will be crucial in the conference race.
“One thing we know in the Big 12, you’ve got to have a short-term memory, you’ve got to move on to the next game,” Drew said. “And it’s really hard to bounce back after a loss and go on the road, especially against a top-25 team, which Kansas State is and it’s the first loss they’ve had at home. That was a real big win for us, momentum-wise, conference-wise. And it showed good maturity to be able to move on to the next game.”
Texas, on the other hand, is slumping during head coach Shaka Smart’s second season at the school. The Longhorns lost half of their nonconference games despite playing no top-25 opponents in that stretch.
Since Big 12 play started, Texas has lost four of five and suspended leading scorer Tevin Mack for a violation of team rules.
The Longhorns battled West Virginia before falling by two at home on Saturday. Smart said there were some positives, but it wasn’t the boost he wanted.
“If you win that game, you can definitely say all around it’s a step forward,” Smart said. “We came up two-points short. The tougher-minded team won. You could see on (the Mountaineers’) faces a level of resolve.”
With the Longhorns struggling, the Austin media seemed more interested in talking about the future during Smart’s press conference on Monday. Texas landed a commitment from Mouth of Wilson, Va., Oak Hill Academy point guard Matt Coleman, a four-star prospect, on Monday.
While Smart could not speak specifically about Coleman because of NCAA rules, he did describe the process.
“When you’re in the early stages of building a program, you want to bring in high quality people that you feel like can be good players but also fit in with what you’re doing,” Smart said. “We need to get better and part of that is adding guys to our program that can help us get better.”