Conference: Big 12
Record: 22-11 (10-8)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 5 (West)
How they got to the Big Dance
Baylor entered Big 12 conference play with an impressive 10-2 record. They dominated Stephen F. Austin 97-55 in the season opener and went on to earn another quality win against Vanderbilt, 69-67. The Bears were routed by No. 17 Texas A&M and lost to No. 8 Oregon, 74-67. In Big 12 play, Baylor defeated No. 21 Iowa State (2), Texas Tech, and No. 23 Texas. They dropped both games to No. 6 Oklahoma, both games to No. 1 Kansas and both games to No. 9 West Virginia. Baylor entered the Big 12 conference tournament with a No. 5 seed and easily defeated No. 4 seed Texas 75-61 in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, they lost a close game to No.1 seed Kansas, 70-66. The Bears are making their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, earning an at-large bid with their RPI rank of 25th.
Why they are a legitimate contender
Baylor has a very balanced scoring attack. They have four players averaging over 10 points per game and seven players scoring over five points per game. This is helpful for the Bears because if one player is having an off night, they can rely on someone else to get them points. Their balanced scoring also makes it harder for opposing defenses, as there isn’t one player that they can key in on. The Bears have a lot of scoring options, which is exemplified by their fifth-ranked 17.8 assists per game. Baylor is also great at stealing the ball from the opponent. They are ranked 26th in the NCAA with 7.9 steals per game. The Bears get a lot of opportunities to score second-chance points, as well. They grab 13.7 offensive rebounds per game, which is ranked 15th in the country, and they have an impressive rebounding margin of 7.9, which is also 15th in the country. As long as Baylor continues to create scoring opportunities with their passing, offensive rebounding and ability to get steals, they will be a forced to be reckoned with in the tournament.
Why they are not a legitimate contender
Nothing about Baylor stands out on the defensive end. Their opponents shoot a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point land and 44.8 percent from the field. Those numbers are dangerous for Baylor because they play at a slow pace. According to kenpom.com, the Bears are ranked 255th in adjusted tempo. Any team with a slow tempo is put on upset alert because if their opponents get hot, the game can get out of hand rather quickly. Baylor also commits a lot of turnovers. They turn the ball over 12.9 times per game, which is ranked 192nd in the NCAA. When playing at a slower pace, every possession matters, and if the Bears continue to turn the ball over as much as they did during the regular season, don’t be surprised if they make an early exit for the second consecutive year.
Player to watch – F Taurean Prince
The 6-foot-7 senior has logged the second most minutes on this year’s Baylor squad and has played in every game. He averages 15.5 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game and 1.3 steals per game. Prince shoots 42.8 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc. He is Baylor’s number one scoring option and they usually win when he is playing well. The senior has recorded six double-doubles this season. He scored 24 points and grabbed 13 boards in the Big 12 quarterfinals against Texas. Look for Baylor to rely on him for scoring and rebounding.
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