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 Weekly Five: 06.28.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on June 28th, 2012

  1. We haven’t been able to talk college basketball for months, not since Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans. Thursday night, however, the NBA Draft will allow us junkies to get our college hoops fix by watching all of our former stars learn their fate. We’re always ready for surprises on draft night, but the endless number of mock drafts gives us a vague idea as to where the Big 12 standouts will go. One mock draft predicts Thomas Robinson at the number two spot, which has essentially become the consensus among all the draft “experts.” Kansas teammate Tyshawn Taylor is slotted as the last pick of the first round there, and Quincy Miller (#18), Royce White (#19) and Perry Jones, III (#20), are on the list, too. Many other players should hear their names in the second round, which is admittedly a bit more of a crapshoot.
  2. Kansas did just fine for itself last season, winning another Big 12 championship and reaching the national title game. But it wasn’t the easiest year for coach Bill Self, who had to mix and match with a short bench and only a handful of reliable contributors outside of the main nucleus. That’s why Self is excited about adding more depth in 2012-13, and he’s especially excited about the progression of sophomore guards Naadir Tharpe and Ben McLemore (ineligible last year). With those two expected to contribute more as well as the arrival of star freshman Perry Ellis, Self believes he should have more options.
  3. It’s hard to believe, but once the summer ends college basketball will be right around the corner. So it’s never too early to talk about non-conference schedules. Texas Tech will apparently add three major home games to its schedule next year: Alabama, Arizona, and Arizona State. That should give Billy Gillispie a decent idea as to how much his team has improved after a fairly disastrous first season.
  4. Oklahoma State has also announced it will host Gonzaga at Gallagher-Iba Arena on New Year’s Eve in 2012, an exciting match-up for those of us who’d rather watch hoops than college football during the holidays. Interestingly, OSU claims this could be the biggest non-conference home game at Gallagher-Iba in more than a decade, which sounds a bit like hyperbole but could certainly be true. And frankly, college basketball is better when that historic arena is rocking, which means the Cowboys better get their act together and string a few wins together before that December 31 game. There’s reason to believe Travis Ford’s team could get better too, especially if freshman Marcus Smart finds a way to co-exist with Le’Bryan Nash.
  5. Baylor is no stranger to scandal, and it’s happening again. In a strange twist, a former basketball player has been charged with extorting Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Richard Hurd is accused of telling Griffin he would disclose some sort of dirt on him to the public if he did not receive a sum of money, which  actually makes us more than a little curious as to what Hurd “had” on Griffin. We didn’t recognize the accused’s name when we saw it, but apparently he was a walk-on at Baylor who actually averaged 17 minutes per game in 2004-05.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Perry Jones III

Posted by dnspewak on June 20th, 2012

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards, so for the next week or two we’ll present you with players who are projected near the end of the first round, and we’ll work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Perry Jones III

School: Baylor

Height/Weight: 6’11”, 235 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round

Perry Jones: Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle (AP)

 

Overview: There has been no greater enigma in college basketball than Perry Jones III during the past two seasons. When he first arrived at Baylor, it seemed implausible he would stay for more than just one year. By all accounts, he was supposed to be the next Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley in the Big 12, a guy who lights up the league for five months and then bolts for the pros. That type of stardom never materialized for him as a freshman, though, and Jones returned to Waco and played frustratingly modest for a second straight season in 2011-12. Once considered an obvious top five NBA Draft selection, scouts continued to criticized Jones for not asserting himself physically and not playing “big” enough. He shined at times during the 2011-12 season, but he also faltered in match-ups against Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe and other elite big men like Kevin Jones (West Virginia) and Arnett Moultrie (Missisippi State). It was a tale of inconsistency all season long. He lit up for Kentucky for 17 points in the Elite Eight but scored only two against South Dakota State in the second round; he embarrassed Kansas State with 31 points in the Big 12 quarterfinals but fouled out with four points in 22 minutes against the Wildcats in February. Overall, Jones had a successful season and two-year college career, but outside expectations are insanely high for this young man. So much that it may have been impossible for Jones to ever reach his full “potential” in college.

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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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Morning Five: 04.10.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2012

  1. It was not much of a surprise, but yesterday Thomas Robinson officially put his name into the 2012 NBA Draft. A year after coming off the bench due to the Morris twins starting in front of him Robinson became the second best player in college basketball and should be a top five pick in this year’s draft. Kansas fans might have been hoping to have Robinson return for his senior year, but it would be unrealistic to have him return to school when he could help support his sister with his NBA contract (his family story is well-chronicled so we will not go through it here). Of course, this will inevitably raise another offseason of question as to whether Bill Self can win another Big 12 title without a superstar.
  2. Robinson will be joined in the NBA Draft by another Big 12 big man as Baylor‘s Perry Jones III also declared for the NBA Draft. Unlike Robinson, who to be fair was a highly rated recruit, Jones has failed to live up to the exceedingly high expectations placed on him coming into college. Averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game is pretty solid, but not when you were projected as a top five pick coming into the season. Looking at it from Jones’ perspective, leaving now appears to be the right decision as each year he has stayed in college has hurt his stock to the point that he is almost out of the lottery after being a probable top two pick coming out of high school and a consensus top five pick even after last year’s decent, but uninspired season. Fortunately for NBA GMs he has fallen far enough down the mock drafts that selecting Jones probably won’t cost the GM his job unless that GM does something idiotic like take Jones in the top ten.
  3. Jones’ Baylor teammates may not be in such good shape as the basketball programs (both men and women) are being investigated for impermissible phone calls and text messages that are so far out of bounds that Kelvin Sampson would blush. Some analysts might have been able to foresee some suspicious activity at Baylor given their sudden rise to prominence. In an attempt to save itself from severe NCAA punishment the coaches named have acknowledged their role and have taken self-imposed penalties and the school has done the same with scholarship and recruiting restrictions.  Given the degree of punishment other schools have received in the past we would not be surprised to see the NCAA issue even more stiff sanctions.
  4. Two other slightly smaller, but still significant names also put their names in the NBA Draft. Vanderbilt‘s John Jenkins announced yesterday that he would be entering into the NBA Draft and forgoing his senior year. Jenkins is projected to be a borderline first round pick could be an intriguing target for a NBA team as he is probably the best shooter in this year’s Draft and there are plenty of teams that will be picking at the end of the first round who could use a marksman. Jenkins is not the only junior guard who declared for the NBA Draft yesterday as Oregon State‘s Jared Cunningham did the same. Unlike Jenkins, Cunningham likely will not even get close to the first round and its guaranteed contract as he is projected to be a late second round pick or even undrafted. Still his athleticism and defense should be enough to get a look from several NBA teams and some training camp invitations.
  5. With all of the players declaring for the NBA Draft it is good to hear that at least a few players will be staying in school for at least a few more years (or at least that is what we think). The most prominent and interesting is Trey Burke, who is returning to Michigan after initial reports indicated that he was leaving. Burke’s decision means that the Wolverines could be a top ten team next season. Lehigh‘s C.J. McCollum, who gained notoriety with his performance in the team’s upset win over Duke, will also return to school. Learning from our criticism of how word spread that he might be leaving school early, McCollum, a journalism major, took matters into his own hands and wrote his own column for The Sporting News. Tony Mitchell, the one from North Texas not the one who is leaving Alabama, will also return to school after playing a shortened freshman season while his eligibility was sorted out. Out of the three, Mitchell might be the most intriguing NBA prospect and could wind up being a lottery pick if he has a strong sophomore season.
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Baylor’s Recruiting Strategy: Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Posted by rtmsf on April 9th, 2012

It’s no secret among college basketball observers that the recruiting prowess of Baylor’s Scott Drew has been largely looked upon with a skeptical eye. In just the past three recruiting cycles, Drew has signed top 10 prospects Perry Jones, III, (2010), Quincy Miller (2011), and Isaiah Austin (2012), making the Christian school in Waco, Texas, one of the premier destinations for elite high school basketball recruits in the country. To those skeptics, Baylor’s quick ascendance from Big 12 doormat to national relevance perhaps signaled that Drew’s recruiting bounty may have been achieved through extraordinary measures — some of which may have been counter to the rules and regulations of the NCAA.

Baylor's Drew Is Feeling Some NCAA Heat, But Does He Care?

The critics appear to have some basis. According to a report released today by ESPN.com’s Jason King, both Drew and Baylor women’s basketball coach, Kim Mulkey, presided over staffs who rampantly and repeatedly violated NCAA rules via text and phone communication with prospects during impermissible periods. Most of these contacts were alleged to have occurred during a 29-month span from 2007-10, but the total number of violations are staggering — 738 impermissible text messages and 528 impermissible phone calls between the two programs.

In a bit of an ironic twist, it was Baylor women’s star Brittney Griner – the Anthony Davis of the women’s game — who in 2008 as a high school star originally notified the NCAA about Baylor’s impermissible contacts. She eventually signed and matriculated at the school anyway, leading the Bears to a flawless 40-0 title season in 2011-12. Since the majority of these contact violations occurred from 2-5 years ago, and the men’s program has since reached two Elite Eights and the women’s program has made an Elite Eight, a Final Four, and won a National Championship, is it wrong to suggest that the illicit contacts performed by Baylor staff to entice elite recruits such as Jones, Griner, Miller, et al, was well worth the risk?

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Grading the Big 12′s 2011-12 Season: Top Half

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2012

Yesterday we gave you our season grades for the bottom half of the Big 12. Today we bring you the top half.

5. Kansas State (22-11, 10-8)

McGruder Led a Surprising K-State Team This Season

FINAL GRADE: B+

Despite all of the personnel question marks and the graduation of star Jacob Pullen, you had the sense Frank Martin would figure something out. He certainly did, as his team weathered a mid-season swoon to finish strong and reach another NCAA Tournament. Martin may have left for South Carolina after the season, but his final Kansas State team fought hard in 2011-12 despite a load of adversity. A December championship at the Diamond Head Classic helped the Wildcats enter the Top 25 before Big 12 play, but poor offensive execution and a lack of consistency on the defensive end doomed the Wildcats during the winter. They weren’t playing like Martin’s teams usually did. They weren’t tough, and it showed, starting 1-3 in Big 12 play and dropping four home games in Manhattan. Oklahoma swept them. Things were getting ugly, and they hit rock bottom after a home loss to Kansas on Big Monday on February 13. That’s when Martin turned this thing around and solidified an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wildcats got back to the basics: defense, rebounding and delivering a knockout punch to opponents. Rodney McGruder stepped up his play as the team’s star, helping it win four of five games to close the season, including road wins at Baylor and Missouri. The controversial suspension of Jamar Samuels left Kansas State without its best forward in an NCAA Third Round game against Syracuse, but it’s impressive that this team even reached that point. With McGruder presumably returning next year, first-year coach Bruce Weber will have a lot to work with. Angel Rodriguez should be even better as a sophomore, and Will Spradling and Jordan Henriquez should grow, too.

4. Iowa State (23-11, 12-6) 

FINAL GRADE: A

The Transfer Effect worked to Iowa State’s benefit this year. In December, we wrote a piece questioning Fred Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics, as he’d brought in four Division I transfers this season. It took a while for everybody to get acclimated, resulting in a couple of losses to Drake and Northern Iowa during an inconsistent non-conference stretch. But once league play began, this team took off. Royce White took the nation by storm with his wild hair and versatile play, showing an ability to run the Cyclones’ offense as a sort of point-forward. He emerged as one of the most fascinating and entertaining players to watch in college basketball, but the team around him helped add to the fun. These guys shot lights-out from beyond the arc, including senior Scott Christopherson, who finished with the highest three-point percentage in the Big 12 (45.5%) for players with more than four attempts per game. Hoiberg added a fresh energy to this program, leading ISU to a victory over Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. His team even briefly competed against Kentucky before falling apart late in that matchup. There was no fairy-tale March run for The Mayor, but given time, his program may eventually reach those heights. The 2011-12 season marked a major turning point for the Cyclones.

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Grading the Big 12′s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great

FINAL GRADE: D

The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)

FINAL GRADE: F

Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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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 Key Questions: NCAA Tournament

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2012

Despite hiding relatively under the radar for most of the regular season, 60% of the Big 12 will represent the league in the NCAA Tournament this week. Texas was the last team to cement its at-large bid, knocking off Iowa State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament to secure an 11 seed. Here’s a team-by-team look at the burning questions this weekend (apologies in advance for that Jim Rome reference):

Missouri

Will its lack of size eventually be its downfall? The Tigers have proven this season that they are capable of overcoming a thin frontcourt. If it was really such an issue, they would not have won a Big 12 Tournament title and finished with 30 victories. Still, when Frank Haith‘s team runs into a team with dominant bigs, it will simply have less room for error. A foul-ridden game by either Ricardo Ratliffe or Steve Moore could end Missouri’s season.

Can Frank Haith Continue To Highlight Missouri's Strengths & Hide Its Weaknesses?

Kansas

Will it overlook Detroit? Hard to say. The idea of “overlooking” anyone in the NCAA Tournament is a little trite, but the Jayhawks actually did draw a scary matchup in this instance. Nobody’s going to doubt Bill Self with all of his Big 12 titles and a national title to his name, but you have to take the good with the bad. He has suffered four fairly enormous upsets during his tenure: Bucknell (2005) Bradley (2006), Northern Iowa (2010), and VCU (2011). Will the trend continue? Probably not, but Detroit is a team that has high-major talent and underachieved in the regular season. Remember, they were a trendy pick to win the Horizon over the two-time national runner-ups.

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