Big 12 Basketball: The Baylor Bears' Recent Resurgence
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Everyone had their doubts when the Big 12 tournament started.
Not even the conference standings could be taken as a positive for the Baylor Bears.
After fighting to a 17-0 record to start the season, Baylor lost its elite status when it dropped four games to Kansas and Missouri, one to Kansas State and ended the season with a loss to Iowa State.
Questions regarding toughness and coaching were flying from all directions, except from the Bears themselves.
By defeating both Kansas State and Kansas, Baylor now finds itself facing the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 championship game—a place no one expected it to be a week ago.
Maybe it’s the new uniforms, which sport clever nicknames like "Electricity" and "Blackout," or maybe the couple of days off worked wonders for Baylor; one thing is for certain either way, though—this is a completely new Baylor team.
After being labeled soft and disrespected the second-half of conference play, sophomore forward Perry Jones III finally silenced his critics.
Jones dominated the Kansas State Wildcats from the start and accrued a career-best 31 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. The following night, though not as impressive, still showed off Jones’ talent with an 18-point effort.
Now, Perry Jones III has the confidence to play to his true potential, along with teammates Quincy Miller and the highly underrated Quincy Acy, as he helps lead Baylor deep into March.
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The best part of this success from the forward position is that Baylor now has a complete and extremely deadly balanced attack.
In addition to boasting incredible length and size from the post-players, the Bears have some of the quickest and most talented guards in the nation thanks to Bob Cousy Award nominee Pierre Jackson, who plays like an animal on the floor; Brady Heslip, aptly nicknamed Downtown Canadian, who is a sniper from the three-point line; and A.J. Walton, a defensive machine.
Yet, what has been lost in this focus on individual players is the improvement that head coach Scott Drew and company have made on the defensive side of the ball.
Consistently criticized for misusing and relying too heavily on zone coverage, coach Drew threw a curve ball into the fray when he decided to mix and match both zone and man defense creatively throughout the games, something neither the Jayhawks nor the Wildcats could keep up with.
Even Kansas head coach Bill Self admitted, “I was surprised they played man. That was a good move.”
Regardless of what happens in the Big 12 championship game, Baylor has thrust itself back into the national spotlight with two exceptional performances against two good teams.
It has not been the easiest season for the Bears, but one thing is for certain: Baylor has learned its lesson from the conference season and is looking to bring home the trophies in March.
Coach Drew put it best when he said, “That’s the great thing about playing in the Big 12. If you don’t have those (tests) in the regular season, you’re not seasoned and ready when the postseason comes.”
Baylor is now ready for the postseason.
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