The Baylor Bears are 8-0 and ranked fourth in the country, but if it were up to Doug Gottlieb, they’d be ranked No. 1. Not even a question.
That’s because the Bears have, without question, the best resume of any team in America. They’ve beaten then-No. 4 Oregon, then-No. 24 Michigan State, then-No. 10 Louisville and then-No. 7 Xavier – all in less than three weeks.
That’s an impressive resume. It’s also why the Bears got six first-place votes in the AP Poll this week – four more than No. 2 UCLA (9-0) but 51 shy of No. 1 Villanova (8-0).
Baylor has never been ranked No. 1. That would be pretty cool to achieve, wouldn’t it?
In a word, yes.
“Sports is pretty competitive. Everyone’s kind of gunning for that No. 1 thing, aren’t we?” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show, laughing. “(It would be) a great honor for your players and for your institution, no question about that. But I think every coach would agree: The final ranking matters more than any of the during-the-season rankings. But it’s definitely nice to be recognized.”
Baylor’s hot start is specially impressive given that it lost three of its top five scorers from last season: Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers and Lester Medford.
“You definitely understood why people didn’t vote us in the Top 25 at the beginning of the year,” Drew said. “Anytime you lose a senior point guard, you lose the school’s all-time leading rebounder in Rico and you lose a lottery pick in Taurean Prince – and then you only have one senior coming back in Ishmail Wainright – you got to understand (not being ranked). Did we expect to be this good? I think coaches always hope for best case, but at the same time, we’re all realistic. We could have been playing really good basketball and lost a bunch of games too because we’re playing great teams. In the last four years, we’ve played the No. 1 strength of schedule in the country if you average every year, so we’re used to playing quality teams and that’s gotten us ready for conference. But this year, to play so many ranked opponents, that’s a tough feat for everybody. I’m really pleased with what our players have been able to do thus far.”
Baylor has three players averaging double figures: Johnathan Motley (16.3 points per game), Manu Lecomte (13.9) and Al Freeman (11.6). All three are shooting at least 38.7 percent from three-point range.
If the Bears keep it up, a No. 1 ranking is well within reach.
“Since our school has never been ranked No. 1, that would mean a lot,” Drew said. “This is the tenth straight year we’ve been ranked, and to me, that’s a great compliment for our players that have been here. To be able to at some point in the last 10 years be ranked each and every year shows a culture, shows that guys really care about the program. But I’m not going to lie: Being ranked No. 1, that’s a dream for anybody, no matter when it occurs.”
Baylor hosts Southern (3-3) on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. ET.