Turnaround earns Tournament trip for Baylor Bears

Baylor Bears

Credit: Getty Images

Royce O'Neale #00 of the Baylor Bears scrambles with Je'lon Hornbeak #5 of the Oklahoma Sooners for a loose ball during the Big 12 Basketball Tournament quarterfinal game at Sprint Center on March 13, 2014 in Kansas City. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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by GEORGE RIBA

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WFAA

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 9:51 PM

WACO — When Baylor played in the Big 12 Championship game Saturday night against Iowa State, it was the culmination of a remarkable turnaround.

The Bears started conference play losing eight of their first 10 games... and then won 10 out of their next 12 to land a spot in the NCAA tournament.

"I believed in the team still," said Baylor forward Cory Jefferson. "I knew there was still a chance to make it. I believe that everyone else on the team believed that we were still going to the tournament."

"Since we were 2-8, the pressure that went with each of the games basically it was like playoff basketball, because our backs were against the wall," Bears head coach Scott Drew said. "We didn't have much margin for error. The fact that every game we've had to put so much into it, hopefully it will help us in the tournament."

Baylor is one of seven Big 12 schools going to the NCAA tournament, the most of any conference, and all of them have single-digit seeds.

Baylor is the 6th seed as the Bears make their fourth trip to the tournament in the last seven years.

“Our strength of schedule the last I saw was eighth, we had so many top 50 wins,” Drew said. “Again, that's the benefit of playing in the Big 12.”

The Bears will play Nebraska in the first round Friday morning, and they need only take a short drive south to San Antonio. It's the perfect first round game for the players and the fans, and even better for forward Taurean Prince, who grew up in the Alamo City.

“Like I've told all the other reporters, it’s bigger than me,” Prince said. “I'm excited to go home and play in front of people that I haven't played in front of since high school, but at the end of the day, it's bigger than me. It’s about the Baylor Bears playing Nebraska and getting that W.”

The last time Baylor played an NCAA Tournament game in the State of Texas was four years ago, when they reached the Elite Eight in Houston.

E-mail griba@wfaa.com

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