Head 2 head: Baylor has enough talent to be final Big 12 team dancing

Photo by Parker Robb | The Collegian Baylor forward Cory Jefferson keeps his eyes open for a teammate as senior forward Shane Southwell comes between him and the basket in the Wildcats' loss to the Bears March 8 in Bramlage Coliseum.

After sending an NCAA-high seven teams to the tournament, only two Big 12 teams remain. Between Baylor (26-11, 9-9 Big 12) and Iowa State (28-7, 11-7 Big 12), the sixth-seeded Bears seem to be the one poised to make it past the Sweet 16 and make a run at the national championship.

On Sunday, the Bears showed the world that they could compete against any team. As an underdog, they decimated the West’s third-seeded Creighton (27-8, 14-4 Big East) and their senior leader and Player of the Year nominee, Doug McDermott, by 30 points.

All five starters for the Bears were in double-digits, scoring a total of 72 points, 17 points more then the Bluejays’ total. Senior guard Brady Heslip showed why he ranks 14th in the nation in 3-point field goals per game and sixth for 3-point field goal percentage.

This performance by the Bears shows the success their defense can have against an elite scoring team, holding the Bluejays to 40 percent field goal percentage, while holding the top 3-point shooting team in the nation to 20.8 percent from behind the arc.

Going forward, the Bears face the second-seeded Wisconsin (28-7, 12-6 Big Ten). The Badgers’ offense will not be as deadly as the Bluejays’ was, but by ranking first in the nation with only eight turnovers per game, they will be more efficient.

The Bears will counter the Badgers with their talent on the boards. Ranking 10th in the nation with a positive 7.1 rebound margin, the bigs of Baylor can almost out rebound any team they face.

The Bears average 13.89 offensive rebounds per game, a stat that gives them many second chance opportunities. The Badgers are ranked 305th in the country in offensive rebounds, something that will hurt them against the powerful rebounders of the Bears, especially since the Bears’ senior forward Cory Jefferson is ranked 23rd nationally for total rebounds with his 305 total.

The combination of Jefferson and sophomore center Isaiah Austin create a deadly pair close to the basket. Austin creates issues for opposing offenses, his length in the paint forces shots away from the basket. Opponents regularly find their shots blocked by him when they go for a close shot. When you add Heslip to the equation from around the arc, the ways this team can score and pace the court is remarkable.

The key to Baylor’s success, though, might rely on junior point guard Kenny Chery. Chery is ranked 40th nationally in assists, of which he has 173. He puts his teammates into great position with his passing. The way he forces the ball around to his teammates, regularly making the extra pass to open teammates, creates the open shots that his team has needed to win.

All the stats in mind, one of the main reasons that the Bears have a better chance to advance in the tournament than the Cyclones is the injury to the Cyclones sophomore forward Georges Niang. For a team that relies on the point production from all of its stars, losing the 16.7 points per game that Niang adds to the team is something that could definitely hurt the teams production and rotation.

If the Bears can get going on the boards and around the arc, they can beat any team that stands in their way, including the Badgers.

Emilio Rivera is a freshman in pre-journalism. Please send comments to sports@kstatecollegian.com.