I'm baaaccckkk! I needed to take a brief hiatus following the end of the college football season to clear my mind and shift into basketball mode.
The break served me well, as I was able to watch a surprisingly deep and talented Big XII conference slug it out each week.
Obviously, everyone knew the Kansas Jayhawks would be the cream of this year’s crop in the Big XII. That's as close to a gimme as you’re ever going to find in college basketball... that and picking Duke or North Carolina to win the ACC.
But I'd give anyone tons of credit (and probably call you a liar) if you could have seen Kansas State being two games out of first, and BAYLOR... yes, BAYLOR... only two and a half games out of the top spot in the conference.
Sure, everyone knew Michael Beasley (or Michael Beastly, as Michael Wilbon so eloquently put it on Pardon the Interruption last week) was touted as one of the best freshmen in the country.
But seriously... did anyone expect him to be this good?
Look at where Beasley ranks in conference stats: First in scoring, total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and defensive rebounds. He also ranks third in blocked shots and fourth in field goal percentage. As a freshman.
Last year's Big XII phenom, Kevin Durant, led the conference in scoring and rebounding, but was seventh in field goal percentage. Beasley is actually on pace to finish the season better, statistically, than Durant. Wow.
While on the topic of freshmen in the Big XII, I also have to give some love to Oklahoma's Blake Griffin.
I was in Waco when Oklahoma played Baylor, and was amazed to see the impact one freshman can have on a team, not only statistically, but emotionally.
Baylor had jumped out to an early lead when Capel put Griffin in the game, a game he was not supposed to play in due to a knee injury suffered against Kansas. The Sooners subsequently ended the Bears’ run, went on one of their own, and never looked back.
Speaking of the Bears, before I wrap up this article, I want to touch on the job Scott Drew has done. He could not have asked for a worse situation to come into when he accepted the job in Waco.
Through hard work, hours spent on the road recruiting, and a tough-love approach, Drew has the Bears playing meaningful basketball quicker than anyone could have imagined.
Here's hoping he stays at Baylor for the foreseeable future.
It'd only be fitting for him to stick around and watch the program he resurrected become a consistent presence in the NCAA tournament.