The college football offseason doldrums are officially here, and we want to spice things up. Over the next few weeks, DieHards is going to look at some of the greatest hypotheticals in Big 12 history. But for the month of March, we’re going to stick to basketball.
Baylor basketball came shockingly close to cutting down the nets just eight years ago. In fact, it might have come down to one bad call.
Up 59-57 with less than 5 minutes left to go, the Bears looked in a great position to pull off a massive upset. But then, Quincy Acy was called for a bogus charge on what should have been a 1-and-1, and Duke leveraged it into a 3-pointer. The game went from potentially 62-57 to 60-59 in an instant.
Duke used the momentum to pull off a 78-71 victory and send the Bears home. Even Brian Zoubek, who drew the charge, admitted the whistle was “lucky.”
The win launched Duke into the Final Four for the first time since 2001. The Blue Devils ultimately won the national championship after crushing West Virginia in the Final Four and edging Butler in the title game.
Even though the Bears made the Elite Eight once again in 2012, the team never had as clear of a Final Four shot as they did on that fateful day in Houston.
But what if Baylor won that game? How would things be different?
Duke was the best team in the March Madness field. It wasn’t really that close. Three different players averaged at least 17 points per game. The front court of Brian Zoubek and Miles Plumlee was one of the most physical in the country.
Regardless, Baylor was able to compete. Ekpe Udoh was one of the best big men in the countries. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter combined to averaged nearly 35 points and 8 assists at guard. Quincy Acy and Josh Lomers did some nice things up front.
The pieces were there for Baylor to win a championship. Udoh and Acy were elite, NBA-level talents. Carter and Dunn were outstanding college basketball players. Having such a balanced roster was critical.
If the Bears won, it would be straight onto the Final Four against future Big 12 opponent West Virginia. The Mountaineers had some nice college talent. Da’Sean Butler was a special player on the wing, while Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones provided complementary options. However, the roster would have had no answer for Baylor’s inside-out presence.
West Virginia shot just 33.7 percent from the 3-point line. Without many reliable shooters, the Mountaineers would have to attack Udoh at the rim. Considering he ranked as one of the best shot blockers in college basketball, it would have been a losing proposition. With Acy and Udoh, West Virginia couldn’t have created as many offensive rebound opportunities. The Mountaineers relied on second-chance points to generate offense.
With a win over West Virginia, it would be on to the national title game. Head coach Brad Stevens is a wizard, and he’s proven at the NBA level. Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack made up one of the most fearsome pairings in college basketball.
However, Duke proved a great defensive team could shut the Bulldogs down. Butler shot just 34.5 percent from the field in the game. For comparison, Baylor ranked No. 5 nationally in field goal percentage allowed; Duke ranked No. 39. Baylor also ranked No. 10 nationally in field goal percentage; Duke was No. 136.
The winner of Duke vs. Baylor was going to win the national championship. They proved to be the best team in the sport. If Baylor tops Duke in Houston, they really could have won the national championship.
How a title changes things
Scott Drew can’t coach.
At least, that’s what you would think based off a decade of criticism. He could have put it to bed with a win over Duke in 2010. It would have sent Baylor to the Final Four for the first time since the 1950s.
Winning a national championship? That would put him in an elite club. Only seven active coaches have won national championships: Izzo, K, Williams, Calipari, Self, Wright and Boeheim. Every one of those coaches is heading to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Drew would still have some work to do, but bringing Baylor from the brink of collapse in 2003 to national champions would have moved him into that conversation.
But more importantly, Drew winning a national championship would have spurred unprecedented investment in the basketball program.
After Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy in 2011, Baylor opted to build a new stadium on the Brazos River. If Baylor basketball won a championship first, perhaps that renovation comes to the Ferrell Center first.
While the Ferrell Center isn’t as old as Floyd Casey Stadium was, it is not befitting of a nationally relevant roster. The lighting is confusing, the student section is separated and the outside is an eyesore. If Baylor wins a title, perhaps a new stadium is on the way. Everyone knows that women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey deserves one after winning a pair of national championships in 2005 and 2012.
At that point, there’s no reason why Baylor can’t develop into one of the nation’s elite programs. There truly isn’t a dominant program in Texas, even though the state continually produces elite talent. If Baylor takes that mantle, recruiting would take off.
With the proper investment and fan support, Baylor could be a nationally competitive basketball program. The university’s modest size wouldn’t hurt it; just look at Xavier, Villanova and Butler.
But unfortunately, Acy was called for the charge. And with it, Baylor’s national championship dreams were dashed.
The post Big 12 questions: What if Baylor basketball beat Duke in 2010? appeared first on Diehards.
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