Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Baylor men earn program's first NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed, living out culture of JOY

It’s official. March Madness is back.

College basketball fans across the country celebrated as the selection committee released its bracket for the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Sunday — the first time in two years the event will take place after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

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And while the tournament sites, schedule and safety protocols will be different in 2021 because of the ongoing pandemic, there are still 68 teams who will compete for a championship. One of the strongest contenders to cut down the nets at the Final Four in Indianapolis are the Baylor Bears, who earned the No. 1 seed in the South Region with a 22-2 record and the Big 12 regular-season title.

It was the first Big 12 title in program history and Baylor’s first conference crown since 1950, when the Bears were in the Southwest Conference. This also marks Baylor’s first-ever NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed.

The man who led the Bears to perhaps their best season in program history and their highest ever seed is coach Scott Drew, who agreed to come to Baylor in 2003 to help the program recover from one of the worst scandals in college basketball history.

Drew’s first winning season with the Bears came in 2007-2008, and since then, Baylor hasn’t ended a season below .500. This season especially, the now-NCAA-Tournament regulars attribute the program’s success to the culture of JOY Drew has established. JOY is an acronym for “Jesus, Others, Yourself,” and is even posted in the team’s official Twitter bio.

“A culture of JOY is Jesus, Others, and then Yourself, so it’s a hierarchy of the way of thinking,” star guard Jared Butler recently said, adding, “For me, it’s [also] the fact that I get to be here with this group of guys, and it’s joy, it’s fun.”

Drew has spoken about his personal faith in Christ throughout his time in Waco.

“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,” Drew said in a Fall 2020 Sports Spectrum Magazine feature.

In February 2020, Drew talked to Sports Spectrum about the culture of his team.

“Playing with joy is something we try to do. We have to continue to respect others, then ourselves, and stay hungry and blessed with the platform we’ve been given,” he said.

People watching the Bears have noticed there’s something different about them.

“A lot of people have said when they’ve watched our team play, you can tell there’s genuine love for one another,” Drew said in a January press conference. “… The love and joy [the players] have for each other is definitely the key to our success.”

The Bears are set to begin their March Madness journey against No. 16 seed Hartford on Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET from Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium. The game will be broadcast on truTV.

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