MARCH 16, 2008: SELECTION SUNDAY—After a disappointing first round loss to 12th-seeded Colorado in the first round of the Big 12 Championship, the Baylor Bears returned to Waco with a record of 21-10, knowing that their chances of an NCAA bid were a little slimmer.
They would now have to rely on the committee to get them in.
Scott Drew, the Bears, Baylor's then-university President John Lilley, the Athletic Department heads, and many Bear Pit members and Wacoans packed the Ferrell Center that night with the hopes of seeing Baylor's name appear in one of the 65 coveted spots.
As time went by, we became disappointed, booing when teams such as Texas A&M and Oklahoma State made an appearance on a regional bracket.
As the selection show neared its finale, they made their way to the Western Regional, with just two spots left to fill. As Purdue was announced as the 6th seed, Baylor fans went into a clap chant, anticipating what was to come, and there it was:
Greg Gumbel: "At the 11th seed in the West, the Baylor Bears, making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1988!"
But as he said this, the Ferrell Center's roof had already been blown off with chants of "BU" and screaming fans. It brought so much emotion to the faces of Curtis Jerrells and Aaron Bruce. Despite being a lower seed, they put up a valiant effort in a 90-79 loss in our nation's capital.
Going into the 08-09 season, the Bears were now minus Bruce, Richard Hurd, and Mark Shepherd. However, they had one of the top starting lineups in the Big 12, and returning starters like Kevin Rogers, Mamadou Diene, Jerrells, and Dugat gave fans hope for back-to-back appearances.
With the addition of freshmen Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones, and Kendall Wright, as well as LaceDarius Dunn's return, Baylor fans had something to hope for.
After impressing the country with an amazing non-conference record, the Bears began to slip as they went 5-11 in the Big 12 to make it as a #9 seed in the conference tourney. At this point, the only way Baylor would make it back to the Big Dance was by winning the conference.
They were able to get through Nebraska, but next in line was the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. In an amazing game, Baylor stunned them (and the country) with a seven point victory.
But next was their toughest challenge yet. A team that had defeated them 24 straight times: the #3 Longhorns.
As the game went back and forth, it came down to the final few minutes, as Baylor pulled off their biggest win of the year by six points and clinching a spot in the conference title game against Missouri.
As the biggest game in Baylor history was underway, everyone had their eyes on Baylor pulling off a miracle. But alas, Missouri won the game, ending the Bears' run.
It was not all for naught, however. Baylor was granted a spot in the NIT Tournament, and upset powerhouse Georgetown in a sold-out game in Waco.
Afterwards, they dominated Virginia Tech and upset Auburn in the Heart of Dixie. Up next: the top-seeded San Diego State squad, whom they also made short work of.
The match-up was set: Baylor vs. Penn State for the NIT Championship.
Thousands of students, both Baylor and Penn State, packed the arena, but the Nittany Lions were too much for Drew's Crew as they won 69-63, claiming the unofficial spot of "66th best team in the country".
Let's now jump to present-day. The Bears have lost Jerrells, Rogers, Dugat, Diene, and Delbert Simpson. But they have also gained top commits like A.J. Walton, Cory Jefferson, and Nolan Dennis. With Dunn, Josh Lomers, and Tweety Carter also returning, you can expect big things from this year's squad, including a rematch against Arizona State in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
The Baylor Bears will be a force to be reckoned with this upcoming season.