Baylor Bears: 19-13, 10-8 in the Big 12
Head coach: Scott Drew (16th season)
Key players: Tristan Clark (14.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG); Makai Mason (14.6 PPG, 3.3 APG); Mark Vital (7.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG)
Season recap: Baylor had a split season this year, with a six-game streak that came midway through the year. The Bears were unsuccessful in the conference tournament, losing for the first time this season to Iowa State in the quarterfinals.
Baylor is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation, a large part of that is due to sophomore Mark Vital. Vital isn’t the leading scorer for the Bears—in fact he’s not even close—but his ability to clean the glass has made him an asset to his team. Tristan Clark and Makai Mason tie for top scorer, but Mason has sat out lately with an injured toe and Tristan Clark is missing the rest of the season with a knee injury. Mason was able to come off the bench for the conference tournament, but this just wasn’t enough for the Bears.
Baylor did not make a tournament appearance last year and haven’t reached the Elite Eight in quite a number of years. The Bears have only made the NCAA tournament championship once, back in 1948, and it’s likely they won’t be adding a banner in their gym this year.
How they make a run: The Bears are able to convert on many of their second-chance opportunities with their top-notch offensive rebounding and get back to the second weekend for the second time in three seasons.
How they falter: Baylor lacks big men that are able to put up a lot of blocks against opponents and get dominated on the inside, leading to another quick exit.