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Mac Engel: Baylor's lost college basketball season hurts the most

Fort Worth Star-Telegram — By Mac Engel Fort Worth Star-Telegram

March 18-- Since the start of the year, the savior football coach who wasn't going to leave left, the NCAA still continues its investigation that will never end, and both Baylor basketball teams were denied their chance at a potential national title.

The College Football Playoff system will never allow a small school like BU a chance to win a national title, but Scott Drew's basketball team had a shot.

Of the many seasons that were ended prematurely by the coronavirus, Baylor's hurts the most. San Diego State and Dayton will disagree but, it's OK. They're wrong.

This is the part of every sports-related story these days that must include the following disclaimer: We know this is just a game, and it doesn't matter compared to what our global society is dealing with right now.

This was Drew's best team since he arrived in Waco in 2003, and the program should have been a No. 1 seed in the now-canceled NCAA Tournament. He's not saying it now, and he may never publicly admit it, but this one has to hurt.

He knows this was his best shot at a Final Four. He's been around long enough to know these sorts of seasons don't just happen every year.

The last time the Bears men's squad was in the Final Four was 1950.

"The team wanted to play the tournament in August or July. Any time," Drew said on Tuesday in a conference call.

Of the many problems currently confronting the NCAA is whether to grant winter sport seniors, who were denied the chance to play for a national title, an additional year of eligibility.

No organization in sports needs good PR more than the NCAA. It should allow the seniors who want that shot to come back, if they so desire.

The NCAA has said it will grant an extra year of eligibility for seniors who play the spring sports. Their seasons were canceled, with many of them not having played a game, or match, this year.

Winter sport athletes remain waiting, and hoping. The only reason for the winter sport seniors to be granted an additional year is to play in a postseason tournament.

If any coach or team should lobby the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility for seniors, it's Scott Drew.

This request is effectively a full-court heave. Drew knows it.

"The NCAA would have to analyze all of it," Drew said. "They are going to have to make exceptions to do things they haven't done before. One thing would be 15 scholarships."

Adding an extra year is not just a keystroke. There would be headaches. It would essentially require a one-year waiver for almost everything.

Rosters would have to expand. Seniors who graduated who would have to take graduate courses. Then there is the issue of players who would want to transfer, not to mention coaches who would rather certain seniors no longer be on their team.

Even if the NCAA pulls the surprise and gives senior basketball players another year, that doesn't guarantee Baylor would repeat its historic season.

Baylor finished No. 5 in the final AP Poll. Its 23-game winning streak was the longest ever by a Big 12 team.

Drew is a finalist for National Coach of the Year.

For five consecutive weeks, Baylor was the top-ranked team in the country, which matched the longest streak in the nation since Kentucky did it in 2015.

BU's 15 conference wins are the most in the history of the league by a team that didn't win the Big 12.

By season's end, Kansas was the better team. They have an NBA big man that no NCAA team can stop.

Nonetheless, Baylor was built to make its first run to the Final Four in seven decades.

They have three seniors on the team, and no player on their roster was projected as an NBA draft pick this spring. They were boring, but they were so good.

The NCAA gets a lot wrong, and it would be nice if the NCAA does the right thing and gives Baylor, and every other team, another shot if they want to try.

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