Big 12 NCAA Resumes: Baylor BearsPosted by Nate Kotisso on February 27th, 2013
Over the next few weeks, we’ll break down where each Big 12 bubble team stands in terms of its current NCAA Tournament resume. This time: the Baylor Bears, who are trying to make back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time in the Scott Drew era.
- Current Record: 16-11, 7-7 in the Big 12
- RPI: 64
- SOS: 32
As is the case with most bubble teams, it’s been an up-and-down year for the Baylor Bears. The talent is there: upperclassmen, versatile big men, a dead-eye shooter and a Big 12 POY candidate. Despite a couple of brain-farts at home and maybe head coach Scott Drew, there’s still a chance to sneak into the Dance. SI’s Andy Glockner, CBS’ Jerry Palm and ESPN’s Ben Franklin all have the Bears on the outside at this point, but I’m going to do my best to try to make an unbiased case for them.
Case For An At-Large Bid: Gotta give Baylor this: They really challenged themselves in the non-conference season. They participated in the Charleston Classic that featured teams like Colorado and St. John’s. They took trips to difficult environments like Gonzaga and Kentucky. To top it off, they scheduled two home games versus 2012 Tournament teams Lehigh and BYU. (Which makes me wonder: How are strength of schedules calculated exactly?) They played Gonzaga tough on the road and lost while beating fellow bubble teams BYU, St. John’s and Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Meanwhile in conference play, they have a 10-point win against Oklahoma State which is looking better by the week.
Case Against An At-Large Bid: They have a 10-point win against Oklahoma State at home — that’s their best conference win. There have been some close calls against Big 12 teams who are likely to make the field of 68: a three-point home loss to Oklahoma, five- AND eight-point losses to Iowa State, and a two-point overtime loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. In their last two road games, however, Baylor has started out playing catch-up which includes last Saturday when the Bears found themselves down 26 points at the half. And you didn’t think I’d forget about those two home losses to Northwestern (RPI: 137) and College of Charleston (RPI: 155)? Those two losses were the first glimpses into what Baylor is now. But people like me kind of ignored it because that same team would beat Kentucky a week after the Charleston loss. There is much left to do with this profile.
Do They Pass The Eye Test? I was lucky enough to see Baylor with my own eyes against Texas back on January 5 in Waco. It wasn’t Baylor with all pieces functioning at full throttle but it was still an NCAA team I was seeing. Pierre Jackson (24 points on that night) has always been the go-to guy. Though a freshman, Isaiah Austin (18 points, 12 rebounds) was still picking up the college game day-by-day. That day, Cory Jefferson was virtually unstoppable inside. He went for 25 points and 10 rebounds, and looked like a man on a mission. Every time he went up to the rim, he wanted a posterized dunk for anyone who dared to stop him. Since that day, Jefferson’s performance has been far from consistent. With the driven Jefferson I saw in Waco, Baylor passed the eye test. They’re a fun team to watch offensively. All they have to do now is take care of business.
What They Must Do From Here: Just win, baby. I usually don’t give the benefit of the doubt to bubble teams with double-figure losses in February, but take care of West Virginia tonight and Texas next Monday night on the road. They have golden opportunities to play themselves into the Tournament if they are able to defeat Kansas and Kansas State when they pay visits to Waco in March. If they’re able to win out the regular season and win one game at the Big 12 Tournament, I believe that’s more than enough to get them invited with some insurance. But if today were Selection Sunday, I’d say Baylor is out. That’s why these next two weeks are incredibly crucial to the Bears’ postseason fortunes.