Jayhawk by Birth, Bear by Choice

Photo I took of the Ferrell Center during Baylor’s game vs WVU last Saturday.

In case you have not heard about it yet, this weekend marks the biggest game in the history of the Baylor Men’s Basketball program, and that is not an exaggeration. Baylor has NEVER hosted a top 5 opponent WHILE being ranked number one in the AP Poll.

Baylor also just recently broke the record for most consecutive wins (23 wins) by a Big 12 team in the existence of the conference, surpassing the 1996-1997 Kansas Jayhawks (22 wins).

Nobody in Waco expected this year’s Baylor basketball team to be THIS good this season. We thought they’d be good, but a Final Four contender? Given Baylor’s past in basketball I think you’d be insane to expect a Final Four run coming into this season.

Kansas has always had a giant bullseye on its back during basketball season, but Baylor is slowly becoming one of those teams. Scott Drew is gaining the national attention he deserves for being one of the better and more consistent coaches in the sport over the last decade. This game has much more importance to Baylor than it does for Kansas, but its up to Baylor to go and take advantage of that opportunity.

Baylor fans are on the edge of their seats and cannot wait for Saturday to arrive. They don’t just believe they CAN beat Kansas (again); they absolutely believe they WILL beat Kansas for the second time this season, and they have every right in the world to believe they will. The winner of this game will then have the inside track to win the conference regular season title.

Furthermore, College Gameday is coming in town for the second time in the Men’s Basketball Program’s history (only other appearance was 2011 vs Texas, a game in which Baylor lost 60-54). I always have loved that show, especially guys like Jay Bilas and Rece Davis, as they have been there since the show’s inception in 2005.

Since I am a sophomore at Baylor, I am obviously super-pumped for the game this weekend, but being from Overland Park, KS, I have a gigantic interest in this specific game in particular because of one thing: I grew up a diehard fan of the Kansas Jayhawks.

Now if you know me well, you know I was on edge this entire January/early February because of the Kansas City Chiefs and their Super Bowl run. I absolutely adore the Chiefs, but as improbable as this sounds, I am a much bigger Kansas Jayhawks fan than Kansas City Chiefs fan. I don’t even know if my roommates can fathom that but it’s the truth.

When I say diehard Jayhawks fan, I mean going to basketball and football games every Saturday for as long as I can remember (yes, football games too). I mean going to almost every senior night basketball game since 2009. I mean having my mother make me a homemade “Pay Heed All Who Enter; Beware of the Phog” sign that still hangs in my room back in Overland Park. I mean attending Bill Self’s basketball camp for much of my youth. I mean getting a basketball signed by some of my favorite Jayhawks of all time in Tyrell Reed, Marcus Morris, Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, Andrew Wiggins, and Joel Embiid. I mean blocking out the first weekend of April every year just on the off chance that the Jayhawks make the Final Four so my family and I can travel and show our support for our beloved Jayhawks.

This is me during my senior year of high school in San Antonio to support the Jayhawks in the 2018 Final Four.

I feel confident saying that my fandom for the Jayhawks is honestly unrivaled by anything in my life. I still text a lot of my friends that go to KU about anything and everything going on the world of sports pertaining to Kansas Athletics. I listen to a multitude of podcasts about Kansas sports, including my favorite one called the “Ain’t No Seats” podcast (Shoutout the hosts Ryan, B-Turn, and AB. You guys are amazing). I listen to every one of their episodes the minute it drops.

But because I do so and because I actively follow Kansas athletics so much from so far away, I am often ridiculed for doing so by my fellow classmates, fraternity brothers, and friends down here in Waco. My Baylor friends could call me a traitor for not cheering 100% for our school.  Some of my family members have called me a traitor for not staying 100% crimson and blue.

I fully support Baylor athletics and Kansas athletics at the same time. But because of this weekend, I am caught in an extreme internal conflict.

If I could draw out any particular scenario for how this season finishes, it would be for Baylor and Kansas to win the rest of their games this season and meet in the national title game.

On one hand, I have my current university’s team, who is 24-1 on the season and ranked number one in the AP Poll, vying for their first conference championship in basketball since 1950. On the other hand, I have my childhood team who will always have a special place in my heart, who is ranked number three and just behind Baylor in the conference standings, coming off a season in which it was the first time that they DIDN’T win the conference in the last 15 years.

Both teams are special. Plain and simple. Both teams absolutely can cut down the nets come March, and I will be there every step of the way for both teams until they are either eliminated or win the national championship.

Ever since coming to Baylor, the number one question I have gotten is “Well who are you going to root for when Baylor plays Kansas?” I have always told people I will root for the home team whenever these two teams play, but I would be lying if I said it won’t be extremely hard to do so for this Saturday’s game.

I am a Baylor Bear through and through, but I will never, EVER forget where I came from.

If I had to give a prediction for the game, I will say Baylor wins by a final score of 70-67. Key matchup to watch for will be Baylor’s Jared Butler vs Kansas’ Marcus Garrett.

Given the situation, it seems as if I can’t win no matter what happens on Saturday!  But maybe, just maybe, that means I can’t lose…

As always, I’d love for you to support my #brand and follow me on twitter @bradyvaughan30 for more sports related content.


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