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How Baylor men’s basketball reached the 2021 men’s Final Four

The Baylor Bears are headed to the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. We break down how they got there, with key players and critical moments throughout the season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Arkansas at Baylor IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 seed Baylor Bears are back in the Final Four for the first time since the 1949-50 season, and they have the second best odds among the competitors to get themselves a national championship. Could the Bears be the team that finally knocks off the Gonzaga Bulldogs? It would sure be a fascinating matchup if they meet in the title game but for now, let’s take a look at how Baylor got to this point.

Regular season

The Bears were ranked in the No. 2 spot for nearly the entire season behind Gonzaga and for much of the year it was those two programs on a tier of their own before the Bears went through a COVID-19 outbreak in mid-February and had 21 days off in between games. Notably, Baylor was slated to play Gonzaga on December 5th, but a COVID-19 outbreak for Gonzaga resulted in that game getting canceled. They did not look to be the same after that especially on the defensive end, but after a few weeks, Baylor has returned to their elite status in college basketball.

NCAA Tournament

In the NCAA Tournament, Baylor easily took care of the No. 16 seed Hartford Hawks and really put on an impressive performance in the second round against the ninth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers to get to the Sweet 16. The Bears struggled through the first half against the No. 5 Villanova Wildcats, but went on a tear after halftime. They then held off the third-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks to get here.

Key players

Baylor is an extremely guard-heavy lineup as seven of their top eight scorers are in the back court, including each of the top five. Junior Jared Butler leads the team in scoring at 16.5 points per game to go with 4.8 assists and two steals. Senior Macio Teague averages 15.9 points, and Davion Mitchell leads the team with 5.3 assists per game to go along with 14 points on average. Each of the top five scorers shoot at least 39.6% from the three-point line, which is a key reason Baylor got to this point.