When the last issue of Baylor Magazine went to press in early March, the highlight of the Bears' season seemed to be a win at Kentucky that snapped the Wildcats' nation-leading 55-game home winning streak.
As it turned out, the best was yet to come.
Head coach Scott Drew's squad went on a late-season tear, starting with an 81-58 dismantling of Big 12 Conference champion Kansas in the regular-season finale and concluding with a celebration on the floor of Madison Square Garden as 2013 NIT champions.
"I'm proud of these guys," said Drew after the championship. "In 2009 we were runner-ups, and we saw teams celebrate. We've been to two Big 12 championship games, saw the other teams celebrate, so it's just great that this team could win the first NIT championship for the Big 12 Conference and also the first championship for the school."
The Bears' only loss in the final month was a two-point loss to 14th-ranked Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals. The Bears beat Long Beach State, Arizona State, Providence, BYU and Iowa by an average of 17 points a game en route to the NIT title.
Baylor is now 15-4 in five postseason appearances under Drew. The last five years have included two NCAA Elite Eight appearances, an NIT runner-up finish and now an NIT championship.
Guard Pierre Jackson finished his senior season as the first power-6 conference player to lead his league in both points and assists in almost 15 years, earning a spot as a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award (given to the nation's top point guard). Jackson broke LaceDarius Dunn's program record for points in a season and (after only two years at Baylor) ended his Baylor career ranked third in career assists and 14th in career scoring.
In April, the Bears got a boost of good news when freshman Isaiah Austin and junior Cory Jefferson -- both pegged as possible NBA first-round draft picks -- each announced they would return for another season. They will be joined on the roster by one of the nation's top 25 signing classes, which includes junior college All-American point guard Kenny Chery and three national top-100 high school signees: forwards Ishmail Wainright and Johnathan Motley and guard Al Freeman. Royce O'Neale, a forward from nearby Killeen, Texas, played the last two seasons at the University of Denver but will join the Bears this fall after transferring.