With only a couple hours left before tip-off (8pm, ESPNU), we did some Q&A with our friends over at Our Daily Bears, getting their opinion on the game tonight and their season overall. Check out their page for our own thoughts about this matchup, which is pivotal to our conference title aspirations.
Scott Drew has led the Bears to a fourth consecutive 20-win season. Picked to finish 6th in the Big 12, do you think he deserves to be in the Big 12 Coach of the Year discussion?
I think so. As you said, Baylor was picked to finish 6th in the preseason, and even if that happens, it will be due to the depth of the Big 12 and not because there is a major flaw in this Baylor. Depending on how the standings shake out, I presume that Lon Kruger, Fred Hoiberg, Bob Huggins, or Scott Drew are the likeliest candidates for the award (Bill Self occupying Gregg Popovich's "best coach who should get the award but that would be boring" position).
This roster lacks the obvious NBA talent of previous Scott Drew teams. The style of play and the success relative to expectations are narrative-breaking for Drew, who had been pinned as a coach overly reliant on top prospects and unable to develop talent. Players like Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, who have shown enormous improvement in their tenure, demonstrate that either Drew is a much more well-rounded coach than he is perceived to be or that he has grown as a coach these past few seasons. Drew might not win the award, but he deserves to be in the discussion.
Rico Gathers, Kenny Cherry, and Taurean Prince are obviously all great players, but who else needs to step up as conference play is winding down and preparation for the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments begins?
Royce O’Neale is the lifeblood of this team. It’s not often that O’Neale will lead the team in any particular statistical category, but he does a little bit of everything to help his team win. He’s a fantastic offensive rebounder from the wing, can handle the ball in transition, has perhaps the best passing vision on the team, and can bang down a spot-up three at an acceptable rate. He’s also the team’s best perimeter defender, and playing in the zone allows him to free-range a bit on the weak side to intercept passes made to the middle.
If O’Neale is on his game, Baylor as a whole runs much more smoothly. He’s one of the best glue guys in the country, and Drew will need him playing his best for the rest of the season.
If you could have one game back, which would it be- the 1-point loss at home to Kansas, or the 2-point loss at K-State?
I would say definitely the home loss to Kansas. Having a win over KU, no matter the venue, would carry much more cache than over K-State, even on the road. A hypothetical win over KU would bump Baylor’s already high RPI even higher, and when the committee looks to seed the Tournament, they’ll care as much or more about who you beat than who you lost to. Anyone can have an off night and lose on the road in the country’s deepest conference. Not everyone can beat Kansas.
What are the keys to Baylor pulling an upset tonight and getting their first victory in Hilton Coliseum?
The key will be to stay committed to running the offense when ISU goes on their inevitable run. When the Bears have gotten down big this season, they tend to play a little hero ball, trying to break defenders down one-on-one off the dribble rather than passing to create the open shot. Prince and Chery can be especially guilty of this. If the Bears can stay calm, run the offense, and continue to play with energy defensively, they have the chance to weather a surge from the Cyclones and still be close enough at the end to win the game.
Gotta end with a prediction: who comes out with a W tonight, and why?
I think Iowa State probably defends their homecourt. If Baylor’s focus lapses at all on the defensive end, ISU is capable of tearing them apart. Georges Niang, who was held in check until the last few minutes of the game in Waco, is a certified zone-buster. I expect big nights from him and Naz Long, who can take advantage of the space the zone affords him to bomb the Bears out of the building. Of course, it’s the Big 12, so anything could happen, but that’s the scenario I foresee. Baylor 69 — Iowa State 78.
Thanks again to everyone at Our Daily Bears for giving us the view from behind enemy lines!