Again among the elite

July 5, 2012

For the second time in three seasons, head coach Scott Drew's Baylor men's basketball squad reached the Elite Eight before falling to eventual national champion Kentucky.

"When you get into coaching, you dream of having years like this," said Drew shortly after the team's final game. "Some of the times you win, but you don't really have a great time; other times you win, and you love the guys you're with. ... It's been a blessing to coach [this group of guys], and definitely, definitely one of the best years."

It was a year for rewriting the record books, as the 2011-12 team set new program highs for wins (30), conference wins (12) and final national ranking (No. 8 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll, No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25).

A 17-0 start propelled the Bears to their highest national ranking ever when they reached No. 3 in mid-January, and the team held its spot in the top 25 from wire to wire, including 15 weeks in the top 10. Fans responded, setting program records for total home attendance (134,541) and per-game average (7,914).

The Bears placed third in the Big 12, the second-best finish in program history, and entered the NCAA tournament as the nation's No. 9 overall seed. By late March, they were the last Texas team left standing in the tournament -- which didn't exactly come as a surprise, considering Baylor swept Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the regular season (finishing a combined 10-0 against Lone Star state squads).

Baylor had multiple AP All-Americans for the first time since 1988, as point guard Pierre Jackson and forward Perry Jones III each earned honorable mention honors, and Drew became the first coach in program history to guide the Bears to four postseason appearances. At the same time, his squad also set a team record for best GPA.

Seniors Quincy Acy, Fred Ellis and Anthony Jones left the program as the winningest class in program history, totaling exactly 100 victories in their four years -- the fourth straight year that record has been broken, an excellent illustration of the program's continual improvement. Acy also left ranked among the top 10 in program history in games played (1st, 139), blocked shots (2nd, 177), field-goal percentage (3rd, 60.2), rebounds (5th, 828), blocks per game (5th, 1.27) and scoring (10th, 1,360).

Despite the loss of such a senior class, Baylor fans have plenty to look forward to as the Bears have yet another top-10 signing class inked for next year, led by consensus top-five national prospect Isaiah Austin, a 7-foot center from Arlington.

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