The Baylor men’s basketball team knows a thing or two about starting a season strong. In 2019-20, the Bears won 24 of their first 25 games and were 13-0 in Big 12 play at one point, earning the top spot in the AP poll. This season, they are a perfect 17-0 and every victory has come by at least eight points. Even a road win over No. 4 Ohio State couldn’t push No. 3 Michigan past the No. 2 Bears in this week’s AP poll.
The Bears were projected to be a No. 1 seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament, which was canceled due to the pandemic. Undeterred, the Bears have been even better in 2020-21 and are on track for their first conference title of any kind since 1950. They have had to navigate multiple pauses, one of which robbed them of their scheduled Dec. 5 meeting with No. 1 Gonzaga, the only other remaining undefeated team in the country. The most recent pause has sidelined the Bears since their 83-69 win at No. 6 Texas on Feb. 2.
Guiding the Baylor men through the uncertainty and success is head coach Scott Drew. He is the son of longtime Valparaiso coach Homer Drew, and his brother Bryce (who joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast in December) is currently the head coach at Grand Canyon University.
This is Scott’s 18th season at the helm in Waco, making him the longest-tenured coach in the Big 12. With 342 victories and eight NCAA Tournament appearances in his first 17 seasons, he has transformed a program that was once rocked by scandal into a national power.
And working at a private Christian school has allowed Drew to be more outspoken about his faith than he might be anywhere else.
“The Spirit works differently with different people, but I feel comfortable talking about my faith in public and what Jesus Christ has done in my life,” he said in a Fall 2020 Sports Spectrum Magazine feature, which highlighted the entire faith-focused athletic program at Baylor.
— Scott Drew (@BUDREW) September 6, 2018
For example, basketball practices begin and end with a prayer. Players are able to attend a Bible study and chapel services if they choose to do so. It’s all part of the culture at Baylor.
“Our athletic director is really big on character, spiritual development and athletics, so it comes from the top,” Drew told Sports Spectrum last year. “We do a players’ Bible study, and a chapel service like the NBA. Those are great times for all of us to grow spiritually. And then we begin practice in prayer, and close practice in prayer, and just make sure that these guys get the full thing of everything that we do.”
Drew places a great deal of emphasis on making sure his behavior aligns with his beliefs, so he is setting an example for both the Christians and non-Christians within the Baylor program.
“We all face challenges daily and we all sin, that’s why you have to be daily in the Word and daily in prayer,” he said in the magazine. “We are all around non-Christians and others who may not believe, but your actions will always speak louder than your words.”
The Bears are expected to return to action on Tuesday night at home against Iowa State. Their regular season is set to end with a trip to Kansas on Saturday, giving them an opportunity to reschedule some of their postponed games before the Big 12 Tournament begins March 10.
The last team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated was Kentucky in the 2014-15 season.
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