March 20, 2012

Scouting the Baylor Bears

Record: 29-7 Overall (#3 Seed in the NCAA Tournament)

Notable Wins: San Diego St, WVU, Missouri, Kansas St, Texas, Kansas, Colorado

Notable Losses: Missouri (2x), Iowa St, Kansas St, Kansas (2x)

Starting Personnel

#55 Pierre Jackson - 5'10 junior PG: Leads in team in scoring at 13.5 points and assists, while rarely turning the ball over and shooting better then 46% from the field and 41% from deep. Jackson is a undersized but quick guard that can really make plays on the offensive end from anywhere inside half court. Jackson also leads Baylor in steals.

#5 Brady Heslip - 6'2 sophomore SG: Fifth double figure scorer averages 10.3 points by shooting 47% from downtown. All but 24 of his field goals are three pointers and he has a knack for the clutch shot as well.

#4 Quincy Acy - 6'7 senior SF: Third leading scorer at 11.5 points uses his physical advantages to score and is a good athlete. Miller shoots 57% from the field, averages 7.2 rebounds, and is a terrific shotblocker for Baylor.

#30 Quincy Miller - 6'9 freshman PF: Great athlete averages 11 points per game to go along with 5 rebounds. Miller is a reliable shooter when open but is at his best when running the floor in transition and making energy plays.

#1 Perry Jones III - 6'11 sophomore C: Second leading scorer averages 13.4 points and is a tremendous offensive talent. Jones shoots 49% and can step out and shoot from the perimeter, run in transition, post up smaller players, or face up and attack the rim. Jones also leads the team with 7.7 rebounds per game as well.

Bench Personnel

#22 AJ Walton - 6'1 junior PG: Struggling shooter averages just 3.9 points but is second on team in assists.

#41 Anthony Jones - 6'10 senior C: Averages 5.3 points and 3 rebounds off bench as a more physical presence.

#14 Deuce Bello - 6'5 freshman SG/SF: Freak athlete averages 3.4 points and 2 boards in limited minutes.

Xavier Defensive Keys

-Contain their athleticism: The Bears frontline is tall and can jump out of the gym, everyone knows that. All three of them are among the five double figure scorers that Baylor has on a team that averages a ridiculous 74.8 points per game. Will Xavier play a lot of zone? That they're going to keep secret but it wouldn't surprise us because of the matchup problems that Jones III and the rest of the Baylor frontline presents. Jones III is very adept at playing on the wing and if Xavier gets caught in man to man situations with Frease guarding him (or Quincy Miller) then it's going to be hard to get defensive stops in a game that the Musketeers need to try and make low scoring.

-Get back in transition: What Baylor probably does best is forcing turnovers and turning them into easy buckets with their athleticism on the break. Another thing that they love to do in transition is shoot the three pointer. The Bears have two viable options to look to on the break for an open three in leading scorer Pierre Jackson and sharp shooter Brady Heslip. As a team Baylor shoots an impressive 39% from three and averages over 7 makes per game.

-Rebound the basketball: Over the course of the season Baylor has worn their opponents down by pounding the glass for second shot opportunities. If you don't box out their entire front line then they will jump over you, that's a fact. The Bears excel on the offensive glass and that helps them get to the foul line often, where they make over 15 per game at a 75% clip. To win this game Xavier will have to come up with a team rebounding effort, not just the center but all five positions will have to box out then go get the ball.

Xavier Offensive Keys

-Don't create offense for Baylor: There's no secret that Baylor loves to get out in transition to score, they do so by forcing opponents into 14.2 turnovers a game (over 7.6 of them are steals, meaning they're live-ball turnovers that Baylor can run on). If the Bears get going in transition they are going to score, plain and simple. The key for Xavier will be making their primary line of defense, where they will win the game, their offense. Taking care of the ball and executing the offense, which we'll talk about momentarily, will really slow down Baylor's attack. Both Jones III and Quincy Miller are not known as players that like to guard so the more that big Kenny Frease can get involved the better Xavier's chances to win.

-Avoid the shotblocker: The Bears are big inside, evidenced by their 4.7 blocks per game and their +5.4 rebounding margin. Forward Quincy Acy is the leading shotblocker as he loves to come from the weakside and turn away opponent shots. Kenny Frease will have to play another strong game inside, hopefully drawing fouls to get Jones III and the rest of the frontline out of the game early (as Baylor has limited interior depth).

-Out execute them: Probably the most important aspect of the game will be Xavier's ability to run their offense, and their defensive scheme, and not get caught up by the size, athleticism, and talent of Baylor. The Bears will try and pressure Xavier at all costs so they can play at their pace, so the Musketeers might look to take their time offensively and work to get the best possible shot (not the first possible shot). Mental toughness is a quality often associated with Tu Holoway. He'll need to make sure that the whole team sticks together throughout Baylor runs to stay in the game so he can make a big play down the stretch.

Overall: While Baylor has lost to teams that beat them at their own style that's probably not going to be the Xavier strategy headed into this game. A low scoring game with a grind it out style on both ends of the court is likely more favorable for the Musketeers against a team that clearly out-run them. While Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons are talented enough to push the ball and score against a so-so transition defense Bears unit the overall team is going to have play with discipline to win this game. Toughness both physical and mental will also play a key role here. The good thing for Xavier is that the upperclassmen have been in the Sweet 16 before and understand the stakes. When Baylor makes a run or produces a highlight play the Musketeers won't be rattled. Sticking to the game plan is going to be important, as will getting consistent play from the bench and other starters. Overall there is no doubt that Xavier is going to have a chance to win and if they can get another legendary performance out of Holloway then their chances are 50-50.

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