Baylor: 12 Reasons Why the Bears Can Be a No. 1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament
Baylor Basketball is finally where it has hoped to be.
Currently undefeated, sitting at No. 4 in the latest polls and the leader of the Big 12, the Bears have their sights set on the No. 1 seed for the Midwest in the NCAA tournament, edging out favorite Kentucky.
Analyzing this squad from an overall standpoint, to players and coaches and even the intangibles, the following is why the Baylor Bears will find themselves at a top spot in March.
Most Balanced Squad in the League
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The majority of teams in college basketball, just as in football, are a solid unit with a key standout player who carries the team to victory.
This is the not case for Baylor, who can boast quite possibly the deepest and most balanced talent pool in the league.
No one never knows which player is going to lead this team in points and essentially the win for any given game.
Perry Jones might walk away with the title like he did against BYU (28 points), Quincy Acy might dunk all over a team a kin to his performance versus Paul Quinn (24 points), or Quincy Miller might show up all other freshmen in the same way he showed up San Diego State (20 points).
Regardless of the lineup that is on the court at any given time, the fact of the matter is that this team can put up big-time points.
Perry Jones III Will Find Himself in Mid-Season Form Soon
The thing about great players is that they do not need nearly as much time to get into the flow as merely good players do.
Perry Jones III started his season off to a hot start, bringing in 28 points, three steals, three blocks and eight rebounds in just his fourth game back.
However, he saw his stats slide with a second peak against Saint Mary’s in a game in which, had it been the last, would have lost him a shot at National Player of the Year.
That being said, Jones has shown steady improvement up to his last game against Big 12 rival Texas A&M in which he earned himself his first double-double of the season.
Look for Jones to continue to raise these stats and account for even more double-doubles and serious potential at earning a triple-double against the lower team in the Big 12. By the time we see late January play, Jones should be putting up late-February numbers.
Quincy Acy: The Unsung Hero
Baylor Nation is quite familiar with No. 4 and his ability to break the glass.
The shame is that Quincy Acy is not known on a national level even though he has been a leader on the court for quite some time.
He does not put up huge numbers, but the real effect of having Acy on the court is that he is ruthless with the ball in his hands. Known by teammates and fans as Cookie Monster, spectators in the Ferrell Center expect the floor to shake when Acy steals the ball and begins his one-man dunk show.
This season especially, the Monster has stepped up his game, providing Baylor with a serious dual-threat forward attack when he pairs with Perry Jones III. It is going to be extremely difficult for teams to have complete coverage of Acy come late season play when both he and Jones are racking up the statistics.
No longer will the Cookie Monster only be known (and feared) by the Big 12.
Brady Heslip: The Downtown Canadian
Speaking of nicknames, Boston College transfer Brady Heslip has earned himself a rather fitting moniker in his rookie season: the Downtown Canadian.
Hailing from Burlington, Ontario, this 6’2’’ guard has quickly become one of the best clutch players the Bears have ever seen.
Making almost 50 percent of his three-point attempts per game (the average dipped following Texas A&M), Heslip was able to bring the Bears back from their few deficits, BYU the most notable, and help build leads in multiple games.
This young man can only go up from here, as he builds upon his recent success and helps to lead the Bears to a Big 12 championship.
The 2011 Class
Nobody in college basketball doubted the fact that Baylor could call its offseason recruiting a success when they signed Deuce Bello (four star Rivals rating) and Quincy Miller (five stars). Baylor had finally earned themselves two of the nation's top prospects.
They have not disappointed.
Playing off the bench and only in a little over half of each game, Miller is averaging 10.9 points per game and 5.3 rebounds. Baylor clearly has confidence that this rookie can stand with the best in college basketball and should feel very assured that they have another powerful forward to dominate in the paint.
However, the real surprise from the 2011 class comes from the lowest rated player, Pierre Jackson.
To call Jackson’s breakout performances this year anything less than astounding would be an understatement.
Against a very tough West Virginia team, Jackson earned himself 23 points and was the reason Baylor came out on top.
Obviously, all those who play Baylor are going to have to focus not only on the powerful veterans in the starting lineup but also on the excellent 2011 class.
Head Coach Scott Drew
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Scott Drew knew what he was getting himself into when he took over a Baylor team in shambles a little under a decade ago.
What Baylor did not know was that Scott Drew would be the savior of this basketball program.
Leading the Bears to the NCAA tournament the last three of four years and making it to the Elite Eight in 2010, Drew has shown that he should be considered among the top-tier of college basketball coaches.
This team is currently sitting at 14-0 and this success is no doubt due to the man in charge. He has somehow found a way to create a team made of big-time players that can succeed and not get tripped up over egos and hurt feelings.
Drew’s success will undoubtedly continue as he continues to grow as a head coach, and his lessons will be key to a deep run by the Bears.
The Bears Lack Selfishness
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Some sportscasters have gone a little overboard when referring to Perry Jones III and his lack of selfishness; anyone who watched the Mississippi State can attest to that.
What they fail to state is that this is a team on which no player can be called the all too common 'diva' of the court.
Successful teams know that the real prize at the end of the season is a trophy that the team can call its own, not the accolades that an individual takes home.
Not only will Jones continue to assist Heslip in sinking treys rather than showing off his ups, but Jackson will continue to launch the ball halfway across the court and set up Acy for a monster plays and AJ Walton will continue to put on his best show before suddenly passing it off the Perry Jones for the basket.
When this team is at its mental and moral peak, there is no stopping them.
The Players and Coaches Remember Past Disappointments
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Last year was supposed to be Baylor’s year.
After finishing in the top eight of college teams the previous season, the Bears were supposed to be nothing short of fantastic and make the case for a championship.
At the end of the season, those dreams were dashed when Baylor could only pull out a win in four of its last 11 games and made an early exit from the Big 12 tournament.
This year, the Bears will not allow such disappoints to wallop them again.
The returning players such as Jones and Acy will play their hearts out in every single game, and the returning coaching staff will work tirelessly to ensure that Baylor can finally call itself the best.
With this fire on the team, Baylor will have even more of a reason to win every single game they play, regardless of the opponent.
The Momentum is the Key
Athletes are creatures of habit and are very susceptible to having their records reflect in their play. Just look at the locker room and on court attitudes of any team that is winless or under .500 at this point in the season.
The players simply lack the motivation to play at their best.
The exact opposite is true for Baylor.
The Bears are off to their best start in school history at 14-0, and one can just feel the sense of accomplishment and roaring spirits when they watch this team on and off the court.
They have the look and feel of winners and as they continue to improve on their record-setting season, the Baylor Bears will only increase their chances of earning themselves a high post-season birth.
Success Leads to Talent
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Baylor has shown that it is no longer the doormat of the Big 12.
That being said, the Bears are not ready to plateau at this point.
Coach Drew and this program want to establish themselves as the team in the Big 12 and top five in the nation, and the only way to accomplish this is to maintain a competitive talent level.
By being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Baylor will prove to the four and five star recruits that they will see success as a Bear; this kind of guarantee is something players gravitate towards.
There is a reason Kentucky and Syracuse have continued to draw the biggest talent, for they are two of the most successful programs in college basketball history. When Baylor can finally edge its way into the top ranks of the tournament, they will provide another alternative to recruits and this fact is motivation enough to dream for that March top spot.
The Ferrell Center
Baylor Fan Rush the Court (courtesy of baylorbears.com)
There are just some places that opposing teams do not want to play. The arena becomes so raucous when the enemy touches the ball the bench can hardly hear itself talk.
The Ferrell Center, the home of the Baylor Bears, is quickly becoming such a court.
During the Texas A&M game Aggie guard Elston Turner attempted a three, only to have it sail over the basket. From that point on, whenever No. 31 touched the ball and until the end of the game, he was met with deafening chants of “air ball” from Baylor Nation.
It is this kind of hostile environment that leads home teams to a successful home record and end of the year hardware.
Excited Fan Base
The Bear Pit (courtesy of baylorbears.com)
This has been an amazing year not just for Baylor Basketball but also for Baylor Athletics on the whole.
With this new chapter comes a shift in the fan base known as Baylor Nation.
Never quite known for being overly supportive of the athletics programs, the students and fans of the Bears have quickly taken a liking to the recent success of their programs.
The simple fact of the matter is that when fans are happy they will undoubtedly show up in support of their team, and this support leads to encouragement and victory for the players. There is just nothing quite like playing in front of a full arena.
The Ferrell Center has already been discussed; however, the real motivation for this team will be when they will finally see green and gold flung all the way to the road games.
With a solid group of fans now supportive and determined to see a championship for the long overdue Bears, the Baylor basketball team will find itself propelled into the top of the postseason.