ATLANTA -- At most universities, the season thus far constructed by the Baylor Bears would be the stuff of legend. Most wins in school history (30 and counting). Second South Regional final appearance in three years when the Bears meet No. 1 Kentucky at 2:20 p.m. toda for a spot in the Final Four opposite Louisville.
And then there are those neon yellow "Electricity" uniforms the team has been wearing of late, courtesy of Adidas.
"I only saw them on TV because I couldn't understand why everybody was coming into the arena with sunglasses on," Kentucky coach John Calipari joked Saturday.
But any time the Bears enter the school's Lt. Jack Whetsel Jr. Basketball Practice Facility, they're reminded just how far it has to go to become even the best basketball program at Baylor.
"The way our practice gym is set up, when we walk in we see all [the Baylor women's] trophies and all that stuff on the right," Bears senior post player Quincy Acy said. "Then we look on the left and it's kind of empty. It's kind of motivation."
Baylor coach Scott Drew insists it's good motivation, that his team has only positive feelings for the high standard set by Kim Mulkey's top-ranked, undefeated Baylor women, who already have the 2005 NCAA championship trophy on display.
"Baylor is such a family-type environment," he said. "These guys go to all the football games, the women's basketball games, whatever's going on. RG3 [Heisman Trophy-winning Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III] spent more time in our locker room his freshman year than maybe some of our coaching staff did.
"Everybody likes one another, supports one another, is so happy for one another."
If ever there was an example that nothing lasts forever, it's the Baylor athletic department in the 2011-12 school year.
Just nine years ago the Baylor basketball program was mired in arguably the worst scandal in college basketball history. Bears player Patrick Dennehy disappeared. Former player Carlton Dotson later was convicted of his murder. To make the matter worse, then-coach Dave Bliss attempted to frame Dennehy as a drug dealer to cover up payments the coach made toward Dennehy's tuition.
The NCAA placed the school on five years probation and reduced scholarships. It looked like the worst job in America.
But Drew -- who had succeeded his father Homer at Valparaiso in 2002 -- wanted the job, even as he dubbed it "a walk-on's dream" in those early years.
Hindered by no nonconference schedule during the 2005-06 season due to the NCAA sanctions, Drew posted losing records in each of his first four seasons in Waco, Texas. The Bears have won at least 21 games four of the five seasons since.
"You not only want a player who's successful on the court, you want someone who is going to represent Baylor and the Waco community well," Drew said of his recruiting philosophy. "No one's perfect, but as long as they have a good heart we feel we can help them in that process."
The process today is to beat the top-ranked Wildcats, a task possibly made tougher by the fact the Bears will be forced to wear their black-out uniforms as the lower seed rather than the electric yellow ones. Baylor is 4-0 in the yellows and 1-1 in the black-outs.
"It makes no difference," Acy said. "They still have 'Baylor' across the front, and we are still the same players. I think we'll be tough to beat."
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...