No Matter What Happens Tonight, Scott Drew Deserves a Fair Shake

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 27th, 2014

Ever since Baylor blew the doors off of Creighton on Sunday, the public tide has started to turn in Scott Drew’s favor. He hasn’t shaken all of the criticisms — that he’s underachieved with top-flight talent in previous seasons and that he’s toed a fine line with his recruiting strategies (as if other programs don’t)  — but with every postseason win he continued to chalk up, the noise has definitely quieted. On Wednesday night alone, CBSSports.com‘s Dennis Dodd and Yahoo!‘s Jeff Eisenberg posted columns detailing why the doubters have it all wrong about Drew. While Dodd and Eisenberg aren’t the first to defend the Baylor head coach, their points remain that regardless of what you think about his tactics, the results he’s produced deserve acclaim among some of the best coaching jobs in the country — no matter what happens tonight against Wisconsin.

No matter what happens tonight, it's time to evaluate Scott Drew with fairness. (AP)

You don’t have to like Scott Drew, but it’s past time to evaluate his tenure at Baylor with fairness. (AP)

The Bears are one win away from a chance to play in the Final Four for the third time in five seasons, so if they beat the Badgers this evening, they’ll have cracked the Elite Eight with three very different teams. While one of the prevalent knocks on Drew is that last season’s group — which had a similar look and feel to this year’s team in terms of roster construction — failed to make the NCAA Tournament, it’s also true that three of his best players this season were guys who were passed over by bigger programs. In other words, if you’re going to penalize Drew for missing out on a Dance card with Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and a senior Pierre Jackson, that’s fine; but if you’re going to do that, it’s only fair to also credit him for getting the most out of Kenny Chery and Royce O’Neale and parlaying that player development into postseason success. Going back even further, he’s offset the lukewarm contributions of hyped recruits Perry Jones and Quincy Miller by getting great value from low-level prospects like Jackson, Quincy Acy and Ekpe Udoh, all three of whom are now playing professionally.

Even if Drew loses tonight, he’ll still find himself among rarefied air in the coaching community. Only six other programs have made the Sweet Sixteen three times in the last five years: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Not Kansas, not Duke, not Syracuse, not Connecticut. Not bad for a guy who arrived in Waco 11 years ago with the unenviable task of rebuilding a D-I program from essentially scratch. No matter what the narrative says you should think about him, stop thinking it. The guy can coach.

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Big 12 Team Previews #2: Baylor Bears

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Baylor at the #2 position is next on our list. 

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 30-8, 12-6
  • Key contributors lost: Quincy Acy, Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller
  • Head coach: Scott Drew
  • Projected finish: 2nd

Scott Drew doesn’t care what you think. He’s perfectly fine reloading with NBA prospects after his stars leave early for the pros, and he’s perfectly fine dealing with the stigma of underachievement and playing an “impure” style of basketball, whatever that really means. In the end, Scott Drew doesn’t care what you think. That’s because he wins. For all the criticism, Drew has reached the Elite Eight twice in three seasons and once again welcomes a collection of stud freshmen to replace the departed Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy. Call this team undisciplined all you want. Drew has the league’s best player in Pierre Jackson, another ferocious frontcourt and as much depth as anybody in the league. Drew just has one more step in quieting his doubters: He must find a way to finally win a Big 12 title.

Drew Is Suspended For The First Two Big 12 Games, But His Team Should Be Just Fine

The Personnel

Pierre Jackson is fun. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Summer Update: Baylor Bears

Posted by dnspewak on July 25th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — an update on Baylor.

Baylor Bears

2011-12 Record: 30-8, 12-6 (3rd place)

Baylor’s women’s program may have visited the White House after winning a national championship, but the men’s team did pretty well for itself too in 2011-12. Scott Drew dealt with the resurfacing of the usual criticism of his program after a 17-0 start turned into a mid-season swoon, but by the end, his supposedly soft and undisciplined program found a way to reach the Elite Eight for the second time in three years. Now, however, the Bears must deal with a few distractions this summer — both on the court and off.  The first news out of Waco involved former men’s basketball walk-on Richard Khamir Hurd, who was arrested and charged with trying to extort ex-star football quarterback Robert Griffin III. Authorities haven’t released many details about the actual extortion attempt, but this is a mess of a situation for a program that could afford to go, say, 100 more years without another legal scandal after the Patrick Dennehy murder in 2003.

That’s not all, though. The most crippling off-season development punished Drew for major NCAA violations. He’ll be suspended for two of the first Big 12 Conference games in 2012-13 after the NCAA claimed he failed to monitor the program in accordance with NCAA regulations. It was determined that Baylor’s men’s and women’s basketball programs had more than 1,000 impermissible text messages and phone calls, and the NCAA accepted the program’s self-imposed sanctions. In addition to Drew’s suspension, Baylor faces three years of probation, which affects Drew’s off-campus recruiting visits and takes away one scholarship for the 2012-13 season.

The last and most significant impact on next year’s team was the departure of Perry Jones III, Qunicy Acy, and Quincy Miller to the NBA. Granted, these players were expected to be in the draft anyway, but the Bears now have some work to do if they want to build on last season’s success.

Brady Heslip Won’t Sneak Up On Anybody This Year

Summer Orientation: Big surprise: Scott Drew has put together another top five recruiting class, according to ESPN, even with the violations and loss of a scholarship. As usual, the results are impressive.

Drew secured 7’0” center Isaiah Austin as a replacement for his departed frontcourt, giving Baylor a freakish 9’3” standing reach and the ability to shoot from deep. He’s a star prospect in every way and just might be one of the Big 12’s top performers in his first season. The bad news? He needs to bulk up. Austin has a skinny frame for his size, so he may not be effective as a traditional post man right away. Austin’s freshman sidekick this year will be 6’7” power forward Ricardo Gathers. When you see Gathers, you’d first think he is on the football team. Simply put, he is a beast. At 240 pounds, Gathers will immediately bring credibility to the post, even though he’s a tad bit undersized from a height standpoint. According to those who’ve seen him play, Gathers will step into the Big 12 with as much pure strength and physicality as anyone in the league.

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Big 12 Weekly Five: 04.26.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on April 26th, 2012

  1. Not long after telling the world he would return to Baylor for his sophomore season, forward Quincy Miller has now officially announced he’s changed his mind. Miller plans to enter the NBA Draft, foregoing three years of eligibility in Waco and leaving Scott Drew without his top four frontcourt players from a year ago. Perry Jones III has already announced his intention to skip his final two years, and both Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones graduated. Luckily, Drew will replace his lost bigs with another banner recruiting class, headlined by Ricardo Gathers and seven-footer Isaiah Austin. Having Miller in the fold would have helped, sure, but this at least means more court time for the freshmen.
  2. Frank Martin told the Associated Press recently that his departure from Kansas State had nothing to do with a rift between he and the athletic department, claiming he “didn’t run away from Kansas State” to take a job at South Carolina. Martin can deny this “rift” all he wants, but it still does not rationalize his decision to leave Manhattan for one of the worst programs traditionally in SEC basketball. Maybe he wanted a new challenge in building up a program. Maybe he liked the weather or the state of South Carolina better, and it actually has nothing to do with the people back in Manhattan. At this point, though, it’s all speculation because Martin has stayed very vague in his reasoning. In the end, who cares? The man did what he had to do for his career, and there’s no point in questioning his life decisions now — he’s a Gamecock for the immediate future.
  3. To replace Martin, Kansas State hired former Illinois coach Bruce Weber. It was an interesting hire after the Illini fired Weber, but it’s more interesting when you consider this: He now joins former Illinois coaches Bill Self (2000-03) and Lon Kruger (1996-2000) in the Big 12. That means the last three coaches from Illinois will all coach against each other next season in Big 12 play. Who’d have thought a Big Ten school would wield so much influence over this league?
  4. When TCU hired Trent Johnson, most praised the decision despite the coach’s rather modest tenure at LSU. Johnson proved he can win at a high level at both Nevada and Stanford, though, and he looks like the right man for the job in the Horned Frogs’ first season in the Big 12. Just down the road, however, a rival school has one-upped TCU. SMU hired the legendary Hall of Famer Larry Brown, a winner at both the NCAA and NBA level. This may have an impact on TCU’s program, but remember, Brown probably won’t last very long at SMU because of his age (72 years old). Johnson isn’t the same sort of immediate splash hit as Brown, but he’s probably a better long-term option.
  5. We’re not sure whether to laugh, cry, scream, or simply roll our eyes after reading this: Apparently Bob Huggins may have been drunk during a coaching clinic last week. And this isn’t just pure speculation or some random blogger making the accusation, either. Deadspin reported that eight different people told its source Huggins was under the influence, and that his speech was audibly slurred, included f-bombs, and all other sorts of alcohol-induced behavior. Several tweeters were on the scene making observations, but this one has to be our favorite.
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ATB: Fantastic Final Four – Buckeyes Squash the Orange, Carolina Misses Marshall, and an All-Kentucky Dream Game

Posted by EJacoby on March 26th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. The Final Four is set and ready for action with some of the biggest storylines in years. There were no Cinderella stories on this second weekend, as the Elite Eight was comprised of all powerhouse teams that have been the class of college basketball all season. This week will feature numerous awesome back-stories and matchups to look forward to in New Orleans, but first we’ll break down exactly what happened over the weekend that’s led us to the remaining four teams in the Big Dance. Without further ado, here’s how it went…

Your Watercooler Moment. Russ Smith Runs Wild For #4 Louisville as Unlikely Hero

Russ Smith Sparked Louisville to a Comeback and a Final Four Berth (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

The top players in the NCAA Tournament proved their worth over the weekend for their heavyweight teams, but the one team that lacks that superstar performer made for the best story of the weekend. Louisville was a slight underdog against #7-seed Florida in the West Regional Final and the Cardinals trailed by eight points at halftime by surrendering far too many open threes to the Gators. But Rick Pitino’s team stayed within striking distance throughout the second half before perhaps the most enigmatic, up-and-down performer in college hoops picked the perfect time to have his best game. Russ Smith, Louisville’s super-sub that provides instant energy, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Smith often leaves coaches and fans scratching their heads with his decision-making, but his no-fear mentality was the difference in this game. Making aggressive moves to the basket and taking big shots late, Smith came up huge for his team in its biggest spot of the season. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists (and four turnovers), and hit two consecutive shots with his team down by six points to cut the Florida lead to one. From there, Louisville closed out the game and sent the Big East Tournament champions to the Final Four.

Also Worth Chatting About. Late-Game Defense Allows #2 Kansas To Defeat #1 UNC

The Jayhawks defeated #1 North Carolina in the Midwest Regional Final by 13 points, but this was one of the most entertaining and close games of the entire NCAA Tournament. The teams were deadlocked 47-47 at halftime in a high-scoring affair, but the defense took over in this game’s second half. Kansas allowed 63.6% shooting in the first half but it was a completely different story after that. The Jayhawks gave up just 22.6% to UNC in the second frame and did not let the Tar Heels score again after a Harrison Barnes free throw cut a Kansas lead to 68-67 with 3:58 to play. Bill Self implemented a surprising ‘triangle and two’ defense that completely threw off UNC offensively, especially limiting what the Heels could do in the paint. Jeff Withey was unable to repeat his 10-block performance from the Sweet Sixteen, but he and Thomas Robinson got the best of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in scoring and rebounding inside. Combine that with the fact that Tyshawn Taylor had an incredible game going up against Stilman White, and Kansas was too tough for a Kendall Marshall-less Carolina team to overcome. There was not enough offense from UNC when it needed it, but Kansas’ terrific defensive effort was a big reason for that.

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Rushed Reaction: #1 Kentucky 82, #3 Baylor 70

Posted by KDoyle on March 25th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Rebound, Pass, Score. Maybe ESPN’s Sport Science can help me out with this: I would love to learn how long it takes Kentucky to grab a rebound and then reverse the ball to the other side of the court. I cannot recall a team that fills the running lanes and pushes the ball better than Kentucky does. A big reason for their exceptional transition play is how well Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones get up and down the floor. Not to mention, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finishes around the rim as well as anybody in the game.
  2. Why Run with Kentucky? Playing off of the preceding point, why would any team try to run up and down the floor with Kentucky? It is hard to fault Baylor for doing so because so much of their game is predicated on transition offense, but other teams would be much better served to turn their game against Kentucky into a half-court affair. Force the Cats to defend for upwards of 20-25 seconds on the defensive end, and really make them work for buckets on the offensive end. Obviously, this is much easier said than done, but methinks Rick Pitino and Louisville will employ such a strategy. According to Kenpom.com, Louisville is the top defensive team in the nation, and dating back to the beginning of the Big East Tournament they are allowing just 56 PPG. However, the Cardinals have not faced an offense like Kentucky during that period.
  3. Lockdown Defense. As impressive as the Cats’ high flying offense is, their defense ain’t too shabby either. Anthony Davis’ shot blocking and altering ability has been well-documented, but Kentucky’s perimeter defense should not go unnoticed either. Opponents are shooting just a shade over 30% from distance against them; Baylor was a mediocre 4-14 this afternoon. Sharpshooter Brady Heslip was never able to get going as he knocked down just one triple on two attempts. For the game, Baylor shot 39%, and never recovered after Kentucky went on a 25-5 run midway through the first half.

Star of the Game. Anthony Davis, Kentucky. The conversation throughout the rest of the day and during the week will no doubt surround Anthony Davis’ knee, but that aside Davis was tremendous against an exceptionally talented Baylor frontcourt. Davis played a much smarter game today than he did against Indiana where he picked up two quick fouls and was forced to sit for much of the opening half. Against Baylor, Davis was not nearly as overanxious—remember, this is the biggest stage he has played on in his young career—but still was his usual imposing self. He turned aside seven shots, while also ripping down 11 rebounds and dropping in 18 points.

Quotable. “The knees doing fine, I just bumped knees with Perry Jones, but it is okay now…I knew I needed to get back into the game to help my team get to the Final Four.” – Anthony Davis on colliding with Perry Jones III and hitting his knee. This was one everyone’s minds in the media room and, not surprisingly, it was the very first question asked. Although Davis was limping after the collision, he did play considerable minutes and did not appear to be hindered by the knee. While many may try to make this into a story throughout the week, it looks as if it is a non-issue.

Sights & Sounds. Kentucky certainly made their mark on the city of Atlanta throughout the entire weekend. They were loud, widespread, and pretty knowledgeable based on the fans I spoke to this weekend. For the game this afternoon, however, there were several Baylor supporters seated behind me that threw out some priceless one liners. After a flagrant foul was called against Baylor early in the first half: “Just because CBS wants them (Kentucky) in New Orleans, doesn’t mean you can do that!” And another gem: “Put in RG3 (Robert Griffin III)! He can throw the ball into the basket from full-court.”

Wildcard: South Regional All-Tournament Team: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Quincy Acy (Baylor), and Christian Watford (Indiana) 

What’s Next? Kentucky will meet Louisville down in New Orleans in the Final Four. This has got to be one of the most highly anticipated and hyped Final Four matchup in history. The media will have an absolute field day with this one and you can bet there will be plenty of questions asked of the coaches about each other.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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Rushed Reaction: #3 Baylor 75, #10 Xavier 70

Posted by KDoyle on March 23rd, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Baylor’s Defense Was Tough. Yes, you read that correctly. After being scrutinized and maligned for much of the season, especially during Big 12 play, Baylor’s stout defense made life difficult for Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons all night. Although the two scored in bunches in the final minutes — when the bulk of the scoring was done — that would prove to be too little, too late. Scott Drew elected to play man-to-man defense for much of the game, and threw in the zone defense sparingly. More than anything though, it was the sheer length, athleticism, and speed of Baylor that made their defense so effective. It begs the question, with lockdown defenders and such speed, why is a zone defense even necessary?
  2. Running, Hops, and Flushes. With a flurry of dunks slammed home by Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III, Baylor’s offense replicated a game of Slamball at one point. Many already knew this, but Baylor’s exceptional play in transition confirmed they can run with any team in the nation — even Kentucky; they have the horses and a steady point guard in Pierre Jackson. Conversely, like most transition-oriented teams, Baylor’s offense stalls in the halfcourt for long stretches. When Xavier was able to cut into Baylor’s lead, it was because they limited Baylor’s transition opportunities.
  3. Kenny Frease Needed More Touches. Xavier got away from what they were doing best—and what got them back into the game — feeding big Kenny Frease the basketball. Frease was 7-10 for the game, and whenever he got a touch something good seemed to happen. The senior from Ohio, who has the physical appearance of one who cuts down trees or wrestles grizzly bears for a living, exploited Baylor’s thin front line. While Jones III and Acy are phenomenal offensive threats and move better than many players with their height, they struggle to defend an opposing post player one-on-one. With Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones looming on the horizon — potentially — this has to be a concern for Scott Drew.

Star of the Game. Pierre Jackson, Baylor. Many will point to Quincy Acy as the star for Baylor—it sure is hard to ignore the several highlight reel dunks he had — it was point guard Pierre Jackson who led Baylor’s fast break and offense to perfection. Jackson had 10 assists to just two turnovers, while knocking down three shots from behind the arc to boot.

Quotable. “Baylor fans have been blessed, the nation’s been blessed, and he is a better person than a player.” — Baylor head coach Scott Drew on the play of senior forward Quincy Acy.

Sights & Sounds. Without question, the most humorous moment during the game ironically had nothing to do with the teams competing on the floor. The loudest the arena got during the game was not after a monstrous dunk or big three, but when the Kentucky band entered the arena. Yes, that is right, the band. Not the basketball team, but the band. Big Blue Nation erupted when a collection of tuba and trumpet players walked out of the tunnel.

What’s Next? Baylor moves onto the Elite Eight where they will play the winner of Kentucky vs. Indiana. Just two years ago, the Bears stumbled at this juncture of the Tournament against Duke, but this is a different Baylor team. Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller were tearing up the AAU circuit, and Pierre Jackson was elsewhere too. Will Scott Drew be able to get over the Elite Eight hump and make it all the way to New Orleans?

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 21st, 2012

  1. After heckling Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez with racial slurs during the first round of the NCAA Tournament, five members of the Southern Mississippi band have lost their scholarships and will no longer participate in the band. This is refreshing news for Rodriguez, who deserves justice after facing taunts of “Where’s Your Green Card?” As Rodriguez mentions in the article, this slur was especially ridiculous because Rodriguez is from Puerto Rico– an American territory, knuckleheads. “Nonsense” is what Rodriguez calls it, and we agree. Both offensive and ignorant.
  2. Winning the Coach of the Year award won’t make Frank Haith feel better about getting Norfolked (yes, we did use that joke yesterday, too), but he has to be proud after all of the criticism he heard when he took the job. Now, it’ll be interesting to see how Haith does with his own roster next season, including several big name transfers. It worked for Fred Hoiberg, who now has his Iowa State program on the upswing. It’s up to guys like Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Jabari Brown to help the returning players continue the success of this Missouri program.
  3. There’s also another newcomer for the Tigers next year: Eric Moeller, a 6-foot-10 big man from St. Louis. He’s a preferred walk-on, but adding a center with this kind of size is never a bad thing. It should especially help in practice, and who knows? Moeller may push for a spot in the rotation eventually if he can add some weight. Right now, he’s just a shade over 200 pounds.
  4. Now that it’s over, it’s time to reflect on Kansas State’s 2011-12 season. Before the year, it was very difficult to gauge Frank Martin‘s team. Without Jacob Pullen, we knew Rodney McGruder would need to be the man. During non-conference play, McGruder embraced this role as his team cracked the top-25. Despite an up-and-down regular season, the Wildcats still overachieved by clamping down when they needed to, earning another NCAA Tournament appearance. It wasn’t easy, but with Martin, it’s always a grind. That’s a compliment, by the way: the guy simply wins, no matter how pretty it looks.
  5. Dick Vitale apparently forgot Baylor and Kentucky still need to win Sweet 16 games to face each other, but he says the Bears would be a stiff test for John Calipari‘s team in the regional final. The Wildcats would enter that contest as the obvious favorite, but watching Anthony Davis against Perry Jones, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy would be a dream matchup for CBS.
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Rushed Reaction: #3 Baylor 80, #11 Colorado 63

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Brady Heslip. Quick scouting report: guard him. He doesn’t make it easy for the opposition, running full steam off screen after screen, but when he gets the ball in his mitts with a clean look from deep, it’s as good as in. On Thursday night, he hit five threes from deep in helping the Bears over South Dakota State, but on Saturday he took it to a whole new level, drilling nine-of-twelve from deep against a variety of defenders, almost all of them coming off a screen and knocking down a catch-and-shoot jumper. The Bears don’t beat South Dakota State on Thursday without Heslip, and they probably don’t get out of this round without him either.
  2. Breaking open a tight one. With 11:12 remaining in the second half, Colorado was up 54-51 and the Bears looked flustered, tentative and about ready to cave in. But, following a missed free throw, Quincy Acy kicked ahead a pass to Heslip for a game-tying three to jumpstart what would turn into a 24-6 run. There were a couple more Heslip threes mixed in there, a nasty Acy dunk, and countless heady plays by junior point guard Pierre Jackson. A game that once looked like a battle to the finish turned into a laugher awful quick.
  3. Size kills. While Heslip is the big story, and rightly so, it was Baylor’s dominance on the boards that kept the Bears around. While the rest of the team save Heslip combined to shoot a 38.5 eFG%, they put in their time doing work, grabbing 44.7% of offensive rebound opportunities and 77.4% on the defensive end. The most well-known of the Baylor bigs continued to struggle, as Perry Jones registered a quiet seven points and four rebounds, but Acy, Quincy Miller, Anthony Jones and even guard Deuce Bello picked up the slack.

Star of the GameBrady Heslip. It’s a no-brainer. He led all scorers with 27 points, all on three-pointers. There’s very little else on the stat sheet for Heslip, but when you knock down nine threes, often barely even disturbing the net, there’s little need to do things like pass the ball or grab rebounds.

Sights & Sounds. Of the fans in The Pit who came to support one of these two teams, it is probably not an overestimate to say that 90% of them were supporting Colorado. Baylor came close to filling up their one section they were awarded, but the rest of the place was either CU fans, New Mexico fans or neutral observers. Speaking of Lobo fans, when the game ended and the place cleared out, they turned on the end of the UNM/Louisville game on the big screens and the Lobo fans in attendance stuck around to try to cheer their team back from an 11-point deficit.

What’s Next? Baylor moves on to the Sweet 16 in the Atlanta regional, awaiting a date with either Lehigh or Xavier on Friday. They could be on a collision course with Kentucky, and they may be one of the few teams in the country that matches up athletically with the Wildcats, although Kentucky still has to get by Indiana, one of the two teams to beat them this year, first.

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Rushed Reaction: #3 Baylor 68, #14 South Dakota State 60

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Great start… In the early minutes of the game, South Dakota State was all energy while Baylor was flat as a pancake. The Jackrabbits made their first four baskets and scored 19 points on their first 12 possessions. Meanwhile, the Bears were just standing around on offense, blowing layups and turning the ball over (four turnovers on their first eight possessions) and it looked like we would be in for a surprise as South Dakota State built up a 12-point lead. Even the crowd support was a blowout with the upstart Jackrabbit fans loud and proud while Bear fans were still wandering in from the parking lot.
  2. But…  The athletic mismatch in this game was apparent from the start. When the teams first walked on the court, the size disparity was obvious and astounding. While some of the more high profile Bears struggled through the game, they had enough talent to find players to make plays. Junior point guard Pierre Jackson was the first Bear to take charge, getting to the rim and playing with fire, while senior Anthony Jones came off the bench and chipped in 11 points in a perfect (4-4 FG, 1-1 from 3-point range, 2-2 FT) first half. Throw in Brady Heslip who dialed in the range from deep on his way to 17 points and Baylor has a lot of weapons.
  3. Hibernating Bears. They are the all-airport team. They are amazing in the pregame layup line. And NBA scouts drool over their potential. And then they get out on the court and there’s no energy, unfocused offense, sloppy defense and unforced turnovers. They are your Baylor Bears, folks. They have the potential to be as good as anybody in the country, but for all the good things they do, often seemingly effortlessly, there are far too many minutes where they seem literally without effort. Perry Jones III, for all the talent in his 6’11” frame, scored just two points and did little to distinguish himself, while Quincy Acy was a mess, struggling to handle the ball and getting beat on the glass by less athletic South Dakota State players.

Star of the GameNate Wolters, South Dakota State. Even in a losing effort, Wolters wowed. All of the Jackrabbit offense ran through him, he spent time dogging Heslip in the first half and Jackson in the second (the halves during which those players were quiet) and he scored 19 points, handed out four assists and grabbed four boards. Sure, he turned it over five times and too often got suckered into some bad three-point attempts, but he was primarily responsible for helping South Dakota State keep this game fairly interesting.

Sights & Sounds. My god. Those uniforms. My eyes! Andy Katz calls them “the highlighters,” the day-glo yellow unis that Baylor sported, replete with fluorescent socks and shoelaces, definitely took a while to get adjusted to. Maybe that’s an excuse the Bears can use for their slow start, but those things definitely took a few minutes (or more) to adjust to.

Wildcard. On the season, Heslip has shot roughly 79% of his field goal attempts from behind the three-point arc. Tonight, it was 100%, as he shot ten balls from deep and made five, all in catch-and-shoot situations. The interior talent for the Bears is apparent, but a gunner like Heslip could make a big difference in this potential Baylor run.

What’s Next? Baylor will face the winner of the nightcap in Albuquerque between UNLV and Colorado on Saturday. If it’s the Buffs, the Bears will be playing in front of a hostile crowd, while if it is the Rebels they will face a team that has at least a similar caliber of athlete.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 15th, 2012

  1. Need a rundown of all the Big 12 teams in the tournament? We have got you covered at RTC, of course, but here’s another perspective. This article neatly tells us why each team can either make a run or flame out, and it gives us a final prediction for all six Big 12 teams. The verdict? Missouri will make the Final Four, Baylor will lose in the Sweet 16 and Kansas won’t get past North Carolina in the regional finals. All fair predictions. Let the bracket discussion begin.
  2. Frank Haith used to be a joke. A guy implicated in the Nevin Shaprio scandal. A guy who did nothing at Miami and still got a better job in the Big 12. Remember those days? Probably not, because he’s completely changed himself during the past year. Once hated, he is now beloved. Once questioned, he is now listened to with ultimate authority. Call it a comeback of epic proportions.
  3. We like to talk about Perry Jones a lot, but point guard Pierre Jackson might be the most important player on this team. At least, that’s what Bill Self says. When this team has won, it’s been because of Jackson’s ability to make plays and open the floor with his penetration and passing skills. He’s not underrated per se, but it’s actually easy to forget about his impact because of Jones, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, and the rest of the NBA studs in this lineup.
  4. Iowa State has quite the interesting first-round matchup with Connecticut. For as much as the media has criticized the Huskies for falling short of expectations, we’ve all known for quite some time that this is a dangerous team if it reaches its potential. The Cyclones, on the other hand, surprised us by reaching the NCAA Tournament on the back of Fred Hoiberg. In a battle of Underachievers vs. Overachievers, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.
  5. We apologize in advance for this. Yesterday, we posted one of those inane, “Is a loss a good thing?” articles, and we said we were sorry then. Once again, here’s another one of those snoozers. Hopefully, this is the kind of debate that really gets you going. If not, simply move on and proceed with life as planned.
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