The Baylor Bears have arrived at the national championship game for the first time. With five wins by at least nine points in the NCAA Tournament, the suffocating defense and outstanding shooting have led Scott Drew and his talented backcourt to 40 minutes from cutting down the nets.
Here’s how the Bears made their path from the start of the season to Monday night in Indianapolis.
The Bears opened the season 18-0, with only Texas Tech, Kansas, and Iowa State losing by less than 10 points. Led by Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell, they looked simply unstoppable for the first two months of the season.
A 71-58 loss at Kansas on February 27th stopped the perfect campaign, but they ran off four in a row before falling to Oklahoma State and Cade Cunningham 83-74 in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
The tournament has actually been easier than the Big 12 season for the Bears, who have rolled through five straight opponents without much resistance. Hartford fell 79-55, Wisconsin 76-63, Villanova was dispatched 62-51, and Arkansas 81-72 in the regional final. Their in-state battle with Houston in the Final Four was an 81-72 rout, and at no point have they really been tested in this tournament.
They’re 41-108 from three-point range, but no team has come close to them in terms of efficiency: They’ve outpaced all opponents by at least 13 points per 100 possessions in all games.
Jared Butler has been a candidate for National Player of The Year all season. Shooting 41.5% from three point range and 52.7% from inside the arc, he averages 16.5 points per game with a team-high 4.8 assists.
Watch for backcourt partner MaCio Teague as well, as the senior from Cincinnati scores 15.9 points and pulls down 4.1 rebounds per game. They make for one of the best tandems in college basketball, and can be a matchup problem as both playmakers and shooters for opponents.