Want to know what a college basketball team hitting rock-bottom sounds like?
Go watch the opening statement from Baylor coach Scott Drew’s news conference following a 90-76 loss at Oklahoma.
“I want to start out by apologizing to Baylor Nation,” Drew said. “The worst job of coaching done this year in the first half. I apologize for the team’s effort and lack of focus … in the first half. Baylor deserves better than that.”
Baylor fans certainly expected more out of this team. It wasn’t that long ago that it was considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament and a Big 12 championship contender. Now it has lost six of its last eight games and appears headed for the NIT.
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How could this happen? Senior guard Pierre Jackson, who leads the conference in both scoring and assists, was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. Isaiah Austin was one of the most highly touted freshmen in the country. Few expected the Bears to make it to their third Elite Eight in four seasons, but the potential was there.
It still is. But Drew hasn’t helped his team improve as the season has progressed. The Bears played their best basketball early, beating Kentucky and BYU and starting conference play 5-1. Today, they are struggling to stay competitive in league games.
Baylor has allowed an average of 80 points in its last three games and trailed Oklahoma 47-21 at halftime.
“If the intensity is not there, the effort is not there, no defense works without that,” Drew said on Saturday. “We didn’t guard them for the first 10 minutes of the game.”
There is still time for Baylor (16-11, 7-7 Big 12) to turn things around, but it won’t be easy. Its final two road games are against West Virginia and Texas. Its final two home games are against Kansas State and Kansas. Win all four, and the Bears will return to the NCAA Tournament. Win three, and they can make their case at the Big 12 Tournament.
A split, or worse, will likely land them in the NIT. The way Baylor is playing right now, that is where it belongs.
Rodriguez turns heads
K-State point guard Angel Rodriguez is starting to impress coaches across the conference.
The sophomore is playing at a high level, averaging 16.5 points and 5.7 assists in his last six games.
Interim Texas Tech coach Chris Walker compared him to “the head of a snake,” saying that anyone that hoped to beat K-State had to first stop Rodriguez.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg offered this analysis: “Angel Rodriguez is playing as well as any point guard in our league.”
TCU’s stunning upset over Kansas was hard to explain when it happened. It’s much more puzzling now. The Jayhawks clobbered the Horned Frogs 74-48 over the weekend at Allen Fieldhouse, holding TCU to nine points in the first half.
KU coach Bill Self struggled to explain the difference afterward.
“Hopefully it won’t be discussed much moving forward,” Self said on Saturday. “We need to think positive thoughts.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said he hopes to discuss ways to improve the Big 12’s travel schedule in future years. The Mountaineers have struggled with long road trips all season, and they have clearly taken their toll. Huggins didn’t go into specifics about possible ways to fix the setup, but lining up home and road games back-to-back would help. That way, West Virginia could play at Kansas and K-State or at Texas and Baylor without flying home in between games.
Through Saturday’s games
1. Kansas (23-4, 11-3): How did Jayhawks lose to TCU?
2. Kansas State (22-5, 11-3): Rodney McGruder doesn’t have to do it all anymore.
3. Oklahoma State (20-6, 10-4): Not out of the championship race yet.
4. Iowa State (19-8, 9-5): On good side of the bubble, but not much room to play with.
5. Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5): Sooners are on their way back to NCAA Tournament.
6. Baylor (16-11, 7-7): The talent is there. The wins are not.
7. West Virginia (13-14, 6-8): One of Bob Huggins’ most challenging seasons.
8. Texas (12-15, 4-10): With or without Myck Kabongo, Longhorns aren’t very good.
9. Texas Tech (9-16, 2-12): Bring on TCU.
10. TCU (10-17, 1-13): How did Horned Frogs beat Kansas?