The 2021 men’s NCAA tournament bracket has been released, and for the next 96 hours, before the first round begins on Friday, March Madness pool enthusiasts and hoop heads alike will be filling out brackets and diving into debates over which teams will be cutting down the nets in Indianapolis.
With all of this excitement going on about the tournament, there are many fans skeptical about the seeding. Many people are wondering: Did Baylor Deserve a 1 seed?
Is Baylor Legit?
The Baylor Bears are the #1 seed for the south region in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. After a stunning upset loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament, some fans are doubting the legitimacy of Baylor’s #1 seed. Baylor was granted a rare chance in sports, a do-over.
No team was hurt more than Baylor last year when the March Madness tournament was canceled. Just when Baylor had set its eyes on the championship trophy and was preparing for its battle for the title it was all taken away.
There was nothing the players or coaches could do besides watch as their hard work, hopes, and chances to win their school’s first title melted away. As is with other aspects of life there are no guarantees in sports, it wasn’t a guarantee that Baylor would make it back to the tournament this year. But through determination and commitment to their coach and the team they did.
“It’s the product of the two years of playing hard, building a winning culture and getting the right group of guys to play together,” Baylor’s Jared Butler, The Big 12 player of the year, said Sunday night. “It’s been special and we’re just getting started.”
It took just as much strength as last year and much more to get through this basketball season for Baylor. The pressure to return back to the tournament and frequent interruptions due to COVID restrictions could have broken the team at any time.
Baylor played just three games in February because of COVID-19 disruptions and had two games earlier in the season canceled, yet somehow managed not to unravel.
Impressive Track Record
In the 2021 season, Baylor amassed a 22-2 record and was ranked in the top 3 the whole time. Baylor holds wins against 9 ranked opponents including one over Illinois, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.
Baylor isn’t just a Cinderella team that the selection committee felt obligated to reward, this is the type of team fans love to watch and opponents hate to run into. This team has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Baylor has the third most prolific offense in the country, scoring 84.4 per game. Baylor is also a well-balanced team that has members contributing across all statistics.
The first option on the team is guard Jaren Butler who averages 17.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.2 steals. Butlers points and steals average leads the team. Next to Butler is guard Davion Mitchell averaging 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2.0 steals.
Holding down the backcourt is forward/guard Mark Vital who averages 6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Vital’s presence around the rim is problematic for teams, he’s too big for guards to cover and too athletic for a center.
This type of balance and contribution from all over the court is emblematic of a team that is built for a March Madness run. But it is not only the players that matter for success in March, just as important is the coach that is leading those players.
Over the past 13 seasons, Scott Drew has led Baylor to eight NCAA Tournament appearances, four Sweet 16 berths, two trips to the Elite Eight, the program’s first No. 1 national ranking in 2017, a Big 12 Conference-record 23-game winning streak in 2019-20 and a five-week streak at No. 1 in 2020 which was the longest by any team since Kentucky in 2015.
Scott Drew has built Baylor into a powerhouse program. Baylor’s 21-9 postseason record over the last 12 seasons is the nation’s eighth-best among teams with at least four NCAA Tournament appearances.
While Baylor may have slipped up against Oklahoma State it doesn’t change who they are. This team has proved two years in a row that they are a title contender, they have faced adversity and overcome it together. Baylor was not just gifted the #1 seed. They fought and left everything on the court for this privilege. Starting Friday they can prove all the haters wrong.
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