‘Defending National Champs’: Baylor men’s hoops ready to defend their title
Have seven months really passed since that magical April night when the Baylor men’s basketball team hoisted the trophy and etched their name in history with a decisive national championship game win over Gonzaga? The Baylor Family continues to celebrate the first national championship in program history — but now, there’s business at hand. Opening night for a new season is almost here, and with it, the reigning national champions will look to defend their title(s).
Friday night, head coach Scott Drew’s Bears welcome Incarnate Word to the Ferrell Center to tip off the 2021-22 season. The evening will begin with a banner-raising and ring ceremony — permanent reminders of the national and Big 12 titles earned by last year’s team. And while plenty of familiar faces will be on the floor when the game tips off, the look of this year’s team will be different, as key players step into greater rolls opened by the graduation or NBA matriculation of players like Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital and MaCio Teague.
This year affords players like Matthew Mayer, Adam Flagler and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua to step into larger roles with some talented newcomers alongside. Mayer was named to this year’s Preseason All-Big 12 team, where he was joined by two new teammates. James Akinjo, a senior transfer from Arizona, was named to the honorable mention All-Big 12 team, while Kendall Brown earned Preseason Big 12 Freshmen of the Year honors. (Brown, one of the top recruits in the nation, is the first Bear to win the award.)
Baylor begins the season ranked No. 8 nationally and picked to finish third in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll. Baylor is, of course, also the reigning Big 12 champion after claiming the program’s first title last season. And even as the rankings have the Bears currently predicted to finish behind Kansas and Texas, many experts say this new-look team’s ceiling could be higher by the time March rolls around.
This year’s schedule features seven opponents ranked in the preseason Top 25. Among Baylor’s key non-conference matchups are home games against Stanford (Nov. 20) and No. 4 Villanova (Dec. 12). (Get your tickets now!) And every one of those games is a marquee matchup, home and away, with the reigning national champions in the house.
Enjoy it, Baylor fans.
Sic ’em, Bears!