The Baylor Miracle

It may not seem miraculous, but Baylor being ranked at the top of the polls is exactly that.

Consider that SMU football has never been the same since receiving the death penalty. The timing of it certainly hurt the Mustangs, as well, as their attempts to rebuild began during the first wave of conference realignment.

The result? They're not a Power Five school, while old SWC foes Texas Tech and Baylor are. Even neighboring TCU is a Power Five school, though they definitely had to earn their stripes first.

Baylor, in both football and basketball, faced moments where the collapse of each program faced them in the eye.

Following the disaster of off-the-field controversies during the Art Briles tenure, many believed Baylor should be kicked out of the Power Five. Some thought they should give up football altogether.

Baylor's hire of Matt Rhule turned a program around in incredibly short time, with a foundation that was much more solid than under Briles. The simple fact that Baylor went from its lowest point to the Sugar Bowl in four seasons is incredible.

Basketball-wise, the story is remarkably similar.

Dave Bliss left the Baylor hoops program in a massive dumpster fire. He paid tuition for players and concealed it. He covered rampant drug abuse by his players. He committed so many NCAA violations that the NCAA slapped a 10-year show cause penalty on him. Worst of all, a Baylor player, Patrick Dennehy, was murdered by his own teammate, Carlton Dotson.

With players transferring en masse, a ban on non-conference play for a season the program being scorched earth after Bliss's dishonorable exodus, Baylor basketball looked to be trapped in decades of misery.

Scott Drew was given the chance to build a Power Five program almost practically from scratch.

Baylor hasn't won a conference championship in 70 years. Their facilities are average at best. The school is situated in a state that is definitely known more for football than basketball, as UTEP (then Texas Western) is the only Texas school to have claimed a Division I basketball title.

But Drew kept recruiting and kept building. And Baylor, for their part, stayed patient.

Five seasons into Drew's tenure, Baylor finally made it to March Madness.

Four years later, the Bears won 30 games and advanced to the Elite Eight.

Now? Baylor is 18-1 with wins over Villanova, Butler, Arizona, last year's runner-up Texas Tech, a road win at Florida and a stunning road win over Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Bears play four guards, average almost eight steals a game and shoot 34.5% behind the arc. Their defense fuels them; Villanova is the only team to have scored more than 70 on Baylor. In games decided by five points or less, the Bears are 4-1, only falling to Washington in the second game of the season.

They've had the best resume so far and look like the best team in America right now.

The school that hit rock-bottom in not one, but two sports has managed to find its footing, teaching everyone yet again that one good hire can't erase the horrors of history, but certainly can write a few chapters of resilient triumph.

In the end, the rise of Baylor hoops, even 17 years after hitting absolute rock bottom, is quite the miraculous story. The next couple of months might determine just how incredible the story could become.

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