SAN ANTONIO – The Baylor Bears seemed about as relaxed and confident as could be Thursday at the AT&T Center on the eve of their opening West regional game against Nebraska.
After overcoming a 2-8 start in Big 12 play, well, could you blame them?
They finished the season winning 10 of 12 games, including six of their last seven, to earn the billing as one of the most dangerous teams in the NCAA tournament. So it stands to reason they would have a little conference pride and swagger.
"The Big 12 is the best conference in the country," said senior guard Brady Heslip, who hit 112 3-pointers this season and averaged 11.8 points per game.
Fellow senior guard Gary Franklin expounded on what clicked for sixth-seeded Baylor.
"Being 2-8 [in conference] was just another opportunity for us to come out of a situation where we didn't like it," Franklin said. "We've had plenty of meetings where we were talking about what we really want to get done and get accomplished, and making it to the NCAA tournament was one of them."
Nebraska, a former Big 12 rival that left the conference in 2010, also got out to a little bit of a rough start before hitting its stride and winning 10 of 13.
"I think us and [11th-seeded] Nebraska are very similar," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We both finished very strong. Both teams stayed together, got better and worked to improve each and every day."
Will there be a little Big 12 vs. Big Ten edge to the matchup?
"I think so," Franklin said. "I mean, as far as wanting to see other Big 12 teams do well, absolutely. We have relationships with guys on other teams that we want to see do well. If we could have a Big 12 matchup in the national championship, that would be fun."
The walk-on way
It's not breaking news that Doug McDermott walked on at Creighton for his senior season.
Guard Grant Gibbs received a sixth-year of eligibility, putting the team over the scholarship limit of 13. So coach Greg McDermott, Doug's father, opted to simply pay for his son's tuition and give the two-time All American's scholarship to Gibbs.
It's all worked out pretty well, but what's fun is what the parties had to say about the subject on Thursday.
"Doug knew that if I did get the extra year that he would become a walk-on and Coach Mac, or Doug's family basically, would be paying for my school for a year," Gibbs said. "So he reminds me of that.
"His mother reminds me of that daily that I owe her her some money when this is all over."
Although it was an odd arrangement, Doug McDermott was all for it.
"Yeah, I knew it was definitly an option," Doug McDermott said. "My summer I was traveling with USA Basketball, and we were still waiting on the NCAA decision on Gibbs, and my dad called me on the way to Russia [for the World University Games].
"I was in the airport, and he told me the news. I had never been more excited to be a walk-on because that meant we had one of our best players back. So we were really excited, and it's great to have Grant around for another year."
Third-seeded Creighton faces 14th-seeded Louisiana on Friday.
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