Daily Times (Primos, PA)

Guards stayed at Baylor, paving the way for Drew’s dream title

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Becoming national champion was a far-fetched dream when Scott Drew first uttered that possibilit­y during his introducti­on as Baylor’s coach after taking over a decimated and scandal-plagued program nearly 18 years ago.

Yet a title felt oh-so-reachable for All-American guard Jared Butler and his backcourt mates MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell last season, after the Bears set a Big 12 record with 23 consecutiv­e wins while spending five weeks as the nation’s No. 1 team. Their championsh­ip opportunit­y, however, got instantane­ously wiped out by the pandemic and the cancellati­on of the NCAA Tournament.

So they all came back for another season together — and will leave Baylor as national champs.

“When you have a goal for that long, we all knew the goal, everybody knew the mission,” said Butler, the Final Four’s most outstandin­g player. “Everybody sacrificed for it, and I think that’s why we’re here today. And just, whew, so glad that everybody came back. We got the band back (together) and we won.”

Butler and Teague had both entered their names in the NBA draft last April, but ultimately decided to return with Mitchell for another season with a chance to be the best team ever at Baylor.

Led by that dynamic and selfless trio of guards, arguably the best in the country, the Bears wrapped a championsh­ip season with a dominating 86-70 win over Gonzaga. Baylor had an 11-1 lead at the first media timeout and maintained a double-digit margin for all but a couple of minutes the rest of Monday night’s title game.

“Coaching is like being a parent, and Christmast­ime you see the kids opening up presents. You see them excited, you’re excited,” Drew said afterward, the championsh­ip net draped around his neck. “And the guys that have sacrificed for 18 years leading up to this, and these guys were able to take it home.”

The Bears have been to nine NCAA tourneys under Drew, twice making the Elite Eight but losing those regional finals to eventual national champs Duke in 2010 and Kentucky in 2012. There were also tourney-opening losses to 14thseeded Georgia State in 2015 and 12th-seeded Yale the next year.

While every college basketball player is being allowed to retain this season of eligibilit­y because of the pandemic, there is no expectatio­n

that junior Butler or senior Teague will bypass the NBA this time. Mitchell, a third-team AllAmerica­n and the national defensive player of the year, strongly indicated last month that he too would leave after this, his junior season.

Fifth-year senior Mark Vital, the undersized big man who set a school record being part of 45 Big 12 wins, has no plans to return.

Baylor was 54-6 overall the past two seasons since former transfers Teague (from UNC Asheville) and Mitchell (from Auburn) became eligible to play after having spent a redshirt season together on the campus of the world’s largest Baptist university in Waco, Texas.

At 28-2 this season, the Big 12 regular-season champion Bears had their fewest losses since going 13-0 in 1911-12.

Garza adds Wooden Award

LOS ANGELES » Luka Garza of Iowa has won the John R. Wooden Award as the nation’s top men’s college basketball player.

The award presented by the Los Angeles Athletic Club was announced Tuesday on ESPN’s “SportsCent­er.”

It was Garza’s fourth player-ofthe-year award. He collected honors from The Associated Press as well as trophies named for Oscar Robertson and Lute Olson.

 ?? DARRON CUMMINGS — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Baylor’s Jared Butler cuts down the net on Monday night in Indianapol­is after the Bears had beaten No. 1 Gonzaga, 86-70 for the title.
DARRON CUMMINGS — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Baylor’s Jared Butler cuts down the net on Monday night in Indianapol­is after the Bears had beaten No. 1 Gonzaga, 86-70 for the title.

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