-- This afternoon will mark a historic moment for Baylor: How does Baylor Bears, No. 1 ranked team in the nation sound?
Those words have never been spoken before. Or maybe Scott Drew has said it as a means to speak it into existence, but they've never been true. Until now.
Baylor is off to a 15-0 start to the season and has arguably the best resume including wins over Louisville, Xavier and Michigan State.
It will take a little getting used to because this is an exclusive club that not just any program can join.
Think about it: Maryland has an all-time roster that can compare with any school. But even with its great tradition and 2002 national championship banner, it still doesn't live in the gated community of programs that have been ranked No. 1.
So in all seriousness Baylor, enjoy this because things can change fast in the No. 1 spot. All of a sudden, there's no more sneaking up on an opponent, starting with Tuesday's game at West Virginia. Ever heard that Mountaineer mascot shoot that musket off? Better be prepared because it'll be cocked at the ready with the No. 1 ranked team coming to town.
Yes, the road just got tougher.
Seven programs (Villanova, Gonzaga, Texas, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Wisconsin) over the past 10 seasons managed to earn the No. 1 ranking for their first time ever. Five of those programs fell off the top spot from road losses. (The other two losses happened on neutral courts in the NCAA tournament.)
The seven teams don't provide extremely encouraging examples to follow. The longest win streak of a first-time No. 1 during the last decade is only four games. That's not a lot of time, but Wisconsin would have taken that given the opportunity to trade its experience.
The Badgers ascended the polls to the top spot on Feb. 19, 2007. They would not hold the same spot by Feb. 26, 2007. The Badgers promptly lost their next two games and their season eventually ended unceremoniously in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Let that be the first lesson, Baylor. There are no trophies given out or banners earned simply for being No. 1 in the regular season.
Wisconsin isn't alone in how quickly it lost the top billing. Tennessee fell victim fast too.
The Volunteers catapulted to the top on Feb. 25, 2008, by beating rival Memphis. Their next game out at their other in-state rival Vanderbilt, they were upset 72-69. Although Tennessee did rebound to beat Kentucky as the week closed out, it never did get back to No. 1.
Those are the short-term concerns. The long-term lesson? Keep in mind, Baylor, the top ranking doesn't come with a guaranteed pass into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. It definitely doesn't mean a path will open up to April.
Ask Texas, which lost in the first round of the 2010 tournament in overtime to Wake Forest. On second thought, maybe you hate the Longhorns too much to talk and that memory probably evoked a few "Sic 'Em" chants around Waco. So Gonzaga will have to tell you.
The Zags lost in the second round of the 2013 tournament to Wichita State. True, the highs of becoming the top ranked team can't compete with the lows and the finality of losing in the Big Dance. Those examples almost make the No. 1 ranking sound like it's not worth the trouble.
That's not so. Both Pittsburgh and Louisville earned the No. 1 ranking at different times during the 2008-09 season. The Panthers lost a heartbreaker to Villanova in the Elite Eight. The Cardinals earned the No. 1 ranking in the final poll of the season and thus were also the No. 1 overall seed entering the NCAA tournament. They also were stopped just short of the Final Four, losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight.
The Elite Eight is nothing new to Baylor, which reached it in 2010 and 2012. It's only right to aim higher. That's why it's only right to look at last season.
Villanova had never been No. 1 before it accomplished that feat on Feb. 8. The Wildcats held it through four games and three weeks before a loss at Xavier. We all know how the season ended with a storybook 3-pointer for the ages and the championship nets returning to Philadelphia for the first time since 1985.
There's no reason why the Bears can't be this season's Villanova.
Both teams average around 77 points per game. Both teams have four players who averaged double figures scoring. Both teams have a player who can take a game over. Josh Hart led Villanova with 15.5 PPG; Johnathan Motley leads the Bears with 15.8 points and 9.4 rebounds.
Both teams could be stingy defensively. Villanova last season ranked fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency. Want to guess how many spots on the list before Baylor appears in that same category right now? It's the exact same with only four other schools ahead.
One area that's vastly different comes in what Taurean Prince so eloquently described after last season's final loss. An offensive rebounding percentage of 36.1, which ranks 23rd nationally according to Ken Pomeroy, makes Baylor, Baylor. The Wildcats weren't good at that last season, grabbing just 28.2 percent of their misses, which ranked 224.
Most important of the similarities, the Wildcats were dealing with the same tournament heartbreak from the previous years. Nova got bounced early from the NCAA tournament for three straight years as a No. 8 seed in 2013, a No. 2 seed in 2014 and a No. 1 seed in 2015. Those losses fueled the Wildcats. If first-round losses to Georgia State in 2015 and Yale in 2016 haven't been mentioned at some point for motivation, then you're doing it wrong Baylor. Let those losses serve as a reminder to take nothing for granted.
That should be easy to do. Rely on experience. Just like Villanova started four upperclassmen and a freshman, the five upperclassmen Drew uses in the starting lineup should understand just how difficult it was to reach No. 1 and how hard it will be to keep it.
No. 1 for the first time (past 10 seasons)
* The AP concludes its poll before the NCAA tournament begins.