Baylor Basketball: 7 Reasons the Bears May Surprise in March

Eric HampfordContributor IIIFebruary 21, 2012

Baylor Basketball: 7 Reasons the Bears May Surprise in March

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    The Baylor Bears are one of the biggest and most talented teams in the country. If you are looking for a team that could surprise a lot of people in March, they are a prime candidate to do so. 

    Led by sophomore Perry Jones III, they are 22-5, 9-5 in the always-tough Big 12.

    They have the size, skill and moxie to take down anyone in the country. While they haven't quite lived up to preseason expectations, they have enjoyed a considerable amount of success and are poised to make a deep run in the Big Dance.

    After already being written off as a national title contender due to the surprising success of conference foes Kansas and Missouri, there are still seven reasons to not take the Bears lightly once the brackets are released.

They Are Battle-Tested

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    Baylor has not only played a tough conference schedule, but they also have tested themselves against some of the better teams nationally.

    Four of their five losses have come at the hands of Kansas and Missouri, both of which have Final Four aspirations. While both games against the Jayhawks were blowout losses, Baylor had a narrow loss to Missouri at home, falling 89-88. In that game, the Bears proved they could hang with any team in the country. 

    In non-conference play, Baylor has wins against San Diego State, St. Mary's and Mississippi State, all probably NCAA tournament teams. 

    There's no question that this is most talented team in Baylor history. The question is whether the Bears can put it all together in the next month and play well on a neutral court.

    If their 83-81 overtime win against West Virginia and star power forward Kevin Jones in the 2011 Las Vegas Classic is any indication, the Bears have what it takes to surprise a lot of people this postseason.

They Have One of the Most Talented Frontcourts in College Basketball

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    The Bears frontcourt starters are as talented as any team in all of college basketball. Freshman star Quincy Miller starts at small forward, and the 6'9" Chicago native is enjoying a very successful first season in college basketball.

    Senior Quincy Acy mans the power forward position for Baylor. The 6'7" senior is the veteran leader of the team, and he is known for his above-the-rim antics. He averages 12.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and is the heart and soul of the squad.

    The wildcard for Baylor is Perry Jones III. The 6'11" forward possesses all the talent in the world, but he is inconsistent. When he plays up to his enormous abilities, the Bears are more dangerous than any other team in America. He's a future NBA lottery pick, and must play like one for the rest of this season.

    Coming off the bench is 6'10" small forward Anthony Jones, a highly skilled senior who can play multiple positions on the floor while giving the team another solid outside shooter.

    The last frontcourt option for the team is 6'9", 210-pound forward Cory Jefferson. He provides a stable 11-12 minutes each game off the bench and is a solid rebounder and inside scorer.

Pierre Jackson

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    The most pleasant surprise for the Baylor Bears this season has been the excellent play of former 2011 National Junior College Player of the Year Pierre Jackson.

    The 5'10" junior point guard is an athletic speedster who not only has been a consistent player for Baylor, but a clutch, late-game shooter as well. 

    He is averaging 12.3 points, 5.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He had a game-winning three-point shot in the Bears 63-60 victory over Texas A&M, and isn't afraid to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game.

    He also has played his best basketball against excellent competition. He scored 20 points and handed out 15 assists in the Bears 89-88 loss to Missouri two weeks ago, and scored 11 points, handed out 11 assists and racked up three steals in their January 16th loss at Kansas.

They Have a Deadly Shooter in Brady Heslip

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    Every team serious about winning a national championship needs a deadly sniper from the outside. Baylor's is sophomore Brady Heslip.

    The 6'2" shooting guard keeps defenses honest against the Bears, and is capable of breaking down the opposing teams defensive plans.

    He is averaging a shade under 10 points per game this season, and is shooting roughly 44 percent from behind the three-point line, while also shooting 43 percent from the field. 

    He is capable of breakout games much like his 18-point night against BYU earlier this season. In that game, he shot 60 percent from three-point land. When he is hot, he takes the Bears to another level.

The Steady Improvement of Freshman Sensation Quincy Miller

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    Coming into the 2011-2012 college basketball season, there was a considerable amount of hype placed upon 6'9" small forward Quincy Miller. He has exceeded expectations in his short time in Waco, Texas.

    On the season, he is averaging 12.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, and has had several games in which he was the leading scorer for Baylor.

    Against a powerful Missouri Tigers team, he totaled 49 points in two games against them, showcasing his dynamic skill set and showing the rest of the country just how talented he is.

    In their 57-56 loss to a tough Kansas State team over the weekend, he recorded his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

    He is crucial to Baylor's NCAA tournament success and will be asked to contribute veteran numbers for the talented team in March and April.

Perry Jones III Is a Game-Changer

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    The inconsistency of Perry Jones III is maddening, considering his tremendous skill-set. The 6'11" sophomore forward's issues can be perfectly summed up with his play over the last week.

    In a 79-64 win over Iowa State on Monday, he scored 18 points on 8-13 shooting from the floor and grabbed seven rebounds. He followed that with a miserable performance in a loss to Kansas State on Saturday. He scored only four points and grabbed four rebounds before fouling out in the second half.

    When he's good, he's good. When he's bad, he's bad. One thing is certain, though, when he plays up to his abilities, he is one of the best players in the country.

    Jones, a future NBA first-round draft pick, leads the Bears in scoring at 13.5 per game and rebounding at 7.5 per game.

    If he can play with consistency over the final month of the season, great things could be in store for Baylor.

They Have Veteran Leadership

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    The Bears' veteran leadership will give them an advantage in the NCAA Tournament over more fully-loaded but less-experienced squads such as the Kentucky Wildcats.

    Senior forwards Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones were both sophomores and part of the record-breaking team that advanced to the 2010 Elite Eight, a team that lost a 78-71 heart-breaker to Duke for a chance to go to the Final Four. 

    Junior point guard Pierre Jackson may only be playing in his first season of Division I basketball, but he already has developed a reputation as a cold-blooded shooter who wants to take the last shot in close-game situations.

    Backup point guard A.J. Walton also sees several minutes per game, and the junior is a calming influence on the floor with young stars Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller.