Baylor NIT-bound despite rugged schedule

  • Article by: STEPHEN HAWKINS
  • Associated Press
  • March 20, 2013 - 2:13 PM

WACO, Texas - So much for Baylor's strength of schedule.

The Bears (18-14) were left out of the 68-team NCAA field after playing one of the nation's toughest schedules.

Baylor, which twice in the past three seasons made it to an NCAA regional final before losing to the eventual national champion (Duke in 2010, Kentucky last season), will be trying to get to Madison Square Garden in the NIT instead of Atlanta for the NCAA Final Four.

The Bears played in the Big 12, which sent half of its 10 teams to the NCAA tournament. Even before conference play, they won at Kentucky, lost by seven points at Gonzaga (a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney) and lost by two to Colorado.

"It can be a Catch-22 because you want to play the toughest schedule you can, but at the same time, you can't get losses," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "Unfortunately we weren't as consistent as we would have liked. ... Probably looking at it going into the year, most teams that had as much turnover as we did were in the same boat, it's hard to be consistent with first-year experienced players, but I guess we all learn."

Baylor had two underclassmen drafted by the NBA last summer after a 30-win season.

Of the top 25 teams for strength of schedule, Baylor is the only one not in the NCAA tournament. Drew held out hope that maybe the NCAA selection committee would consider the strength of schedule, especially winning at Rupp Arena and an 81-58 win over Kansas, another No. 1 NCAA seed, in the regular season finale.

"You could see an argument being made," he said.

Still, Drew said that won't keep the Bears from trying to schedule tough non-conference opponents.

"I think we're already going to play tough teams," he said. "Because we plan on being a good team."

The Bears open NIT play on Wednesday night against Long Beach State.

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