It’s been a wacko few years in Waco. The small Texas town known solely for David Koresh’s cult and the Patrick Dennehy-Carlton Dotson-Dave Bliss disaster of 2003 made its presence felt again this week.
Yes, that’s Baylor listed 25th in the Associated Press poll, a positive place the school’s men’s basketball team hadn’t visited since 1969.
Coach Scott Drew is behind it all. He left Valparaiso and a few NCAA tournament appearances behind in 2003 to take on the Baylor catastrophe after Bliss’ barrage of recruiting violations, ignored drug use on the team, tampering, threats, and obstruction of justice following Dotson’s murder of teammate Dennehy.
Bliss spent two years as a volunteer high school coach near Denver and is now coaching in the CBA. He can’t be hired by an NCAA member school until 2015 without the governing body’s permission, and probably won’t be after then anyway.
Meanwhile, the school self-imposed more sanctions, including a postseason ban and scholarship reductions, which was likely the only thing that kept the NCAA from inflicting the “Death Penalty.”
Drew went 21-53 his first three years at Baylor (including the 2005-2006 season of 17 games when the NCAA banned the team from playing a nonconference schedule).
This year, however, is the second consecutive without scholarship restrictions, and Drew has the Bears off to a 14-2 start — 5-0 when trailing at halftime — and No. 31 in the RPI this week.
The Bears won the Paradise Jam in November, their first tournament championship since 1971. They won their first Big 12 road game in the last 25 attempts Saturday night against Nebraska. They’re off to their best start since 1946-47.
Considered a wacko for taking this go-nowhere job five years ago, Drew now looks like a genius.
“There have been so many firsts,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “One day we won’t have those firsts to worry about. But it sure is nice to be knocking those down.”
CAN ANYONE WIN IN CORVALLIS?
Jay John’s tenure at Oregon State ended Sunday night when he was fired 18 games into his sixth season in Corvallis.
Despite having two more years on his contract (and the school owes him that money), this move seemed likely at season’s end if this year continued to be a lost cause.
The Beavers struggled through a supposedly cushy nonconference schedule, and are in last place in the Pac-10. They’re already in the third-longest drought among the nation’s major conference schools without being ranked (March 13, 1990), trailing Rutgers and Northwestern.
Assistant Kevin Mouton took over as the interim coach, and hours later he kicked C.J. Giles off the team. Giles gave the Beavers a migraine earlier this season with his attitude and tardiness — this after he essentially was booted out of Kansas for misdemeanor battery charges and poor academics.
The Beavers haven’t finished higher than fifth in the conference since they won the league with Gary Payton in 1989-90. That’s also the last time they went to the NCAA tournament.
COULDN’T GET A WITNESS
Three Division II referees from the South Atlantic Conference were suspended and won’t be allowed to work postseason play after they gave Wingate credit for a basket after a missed shot during an 83-82 win against Carson-Newman last week.
Early in the second half, Wingate’s Bryan Grier drew a foul on Carson-Newman during a shot attempt, and a referee went to the scorer’s table and told them to count the shot, even though none of the other officials, clock operator or two official scorers saw whether the ball actually went into the basket.
John Beilein took his shoot-it-up offense to Michigan, and Bob Huggins came back to his native state and alma mater, West Virginia, with defense and rebounding. Two opposite styles, similar results. West Virginia is shooting 55 percent against Division I opponents, 41 percent from behind the arc. The Mountaineers (13-4) are 26th in the RPI with wins against Marquette and Syracuse, and narrow losses to Tennessee, Oklahoma and Louisville, while top-40 teams Georgetown, Providence and Pittsburgh await. Oh, there’s also a Jan. 30 date with Cincinnati, where Huggins might recall spending a year or 16 prior.
Arizona State vs. Washington State, Saturday at 5 p.m. on FSNAZ. Thursday night matchups are equally big for both teams (ASU hosts Washington, Washington State plays in Tucson), but the Sun Devils need another “signature win” to bump up their RPI and keep themselves in the NCAA tournament discussion. Playing the No. 6 team in the country fits that bill, especially since the Cougars have to play Arizona on the road first. Our guess: Whichever team shoots 40 percent wins.
You probably know Kenny George as the 7-foot-8, 360-pound center at UNC-Asheville who got posterized by North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough last month. The hopeful future writer/director is too big to fit in cars and doesn’t have a driver’s license, but he’s averaging 13 points, eight rebounds and nearly five blocks in 22 minutes per game, and his 101-inch wingspan has helped him shoot 71 percent. On the downside, his size-26 feet have already endured a series of injuries since high school.
THE LAST WORD
“We look like $1 million one time and nothing the next. It’s like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.”
speaking after preseason big ten player of the year drew neitzel hit five 3-pointers in sunday’s second half to push no. 10 michigan state past the gophers
Our top seeds: North Carolina (18-1), Memphis (17-0), UCLA (16-2) and Kansas (18-0)