INDIANAPOLIS – The only reason Baylor’s backcourt can’t be considered a true brotherhood is the blood coursing through their veins.
Whether they were declaring together for the NBA draft or withdrawing from it, transferring from other schools or helping newcomers acclimate to coach Scott Drew's program, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell have done just about everything together over the past couple of years.
That includes leading the Bears to their first national championship game since the 1940s.
But that much-anticipated showdown with unbeaten Gonzaga on Monday night, the only team that kept the Bears from ascending to No. 1 all season, probably wouldn't have been happened had those three not returned to Baylor this season.
Teague was the first to declare for the NBA draft last spring, shortly after the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments were called off due to the coronavirus outbreak. Butler dropped his name in the hat after an All-American season a couple weeks later, and Mitchell might have done the same if scouts cared as much about defense as they do offense.
All three came back, though. Each had their own reasons, but one in particular tied them together: The trio knew that they would have a chance to win the program's first national championship.
“I don't think the COVID ending was, like, a big reason why everybody came back,” Butler said, “but I think we all explored our options equally and we wanted to see where we were at in our basketball career. And we just made the decision to come back, and we felt like, each one of us felt like coming back was the best option.”
It certainly was the best situation for Baylor.