Baylor earns first Final Four since 1950

Baylor is in the Final Four for the first time in 71 years.

The No. 1 Bears put No. 3 Arkansas away over the final six minutes of their Elite Eight matchup Monday night in an 81-72 victory thanks to a couple of key threes by MaCio Teague and a long shooting drought by Arkansas.

The Razorbacks had cut Baylor’s advantage to 64-60 via two free throws with 7:34 to go but never got within a single possession after that. Once Baylor got the lead back to six, Teague hit threes sandwiched by an Arkansas free throw to give Baylor an insurmountable 72-61 lead with 3:59 to go.

By the time Arkansas got a bucket again, the Razorbacks were down 10 and had gone over eight minutes without a field goal. And Mark Vital had delivered an emphatic slam to cap the run off with a flourish and crown Baylor the South Region champions.

Baylor reaches final four

The Bears’ win sets up another matchup with a former Southwestern Conference foe. Baylor and Arkansas were longtime members of the now-defunct conference, and Baylor will face Houston on Saturday in a semifinal. Baylor and Houston were members of the conference for 25 years, from when Houston joined in 1972 to when the conference dissolved in 1996.

Baylor was an original member of the SWC when it was formed in 1915. And until its recent run with coach Scott Drew it had seen its most basketball success in the Southwestern Conference while Bill Henderson was the team’s coach.

The Bears were among the final four teams in the NCAA tournament three times from 1946-1950 and lost in the 1948 national title game.

That tournament appearance in 1950 was the Bears’ last until a one-and-done berth in the 1988 tournament. And that tournament appearance 33 years ago was the team’s most recent until Baylor went to the tournament in 2008 in Drew’s fifth season.

The 2021 NCAA tournament is Baylor’s ninth under Drew. And with a win over Houston — and two more victories by Gonzaga — we could get the matchup for the national title that college basketball has been waiting for between the Bears and the Bulldogs.

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