Forward Toward February: A look at Baylor

Forward Toward February: A look at Baylor
January 31, 2013, 8:00 am
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It’s that time of the year again for men’s college hoops fanatics. The calendar rolls over from January to February, and with that roll over comes the heart of the conference schedules.  The top teams aim to touch up their résumés, while bubble teams look for a key victory to put them over the top. Let’s take a look at how the season has unfolded thus far and what is next for some of the teams that are dear to the hearts of Houston residents …

Baylor Bears:

Record: 14-5, 5-1 in Conference Play (second in Big 12)

Key Wins: Dec. 1 at then No. 8 Kentucky; Dec. 21 vs. BYU; Jan. 21 vs. Oklahoma St.

Bad Losses: Nov. 24 vs. College of Charleston; Dec. 4 vs. Northwestern

Season To Date: Baylor is one of the more confusing teams not only in the Big 12 but in the entire country.  They have the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year at point guard in Pierre Jackson, and one of the top freshman recruits in program history in center Isaiah Austin.

When the Bears are digging in on defense and moving the ball on offense, they are as tough a team to stop as any. Cory Jefferson has had a breakout season in the post, averaging 8.4 rebounds per game. Austin has had a solid freshman campaign, averaging 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.  

At times, the Bears get sloppy on offense and have a tendency to try and do too much in a one-on-one setting. In order for Baylor to make a legitimate push at tourney time, they need to get shooting guard Brady Heslip on track.  Heslip is one of the premier shooters in the nation, but is only shooting 39 percent from the field this season.

Jackson’s willingness to get Heslip the ball early in games so he can find a rhythm could be the make or break element for coach Scott Drew’s talented squad. Baylor looks to be the primary contender to knocked Kansas off their Big 12 Champ throne… Now it’s a matter of pulling it off.

Looking ahead: Feb. 16 at No. 18 Kansas State, March 2 vs. No. 18 Kansas State, March 9 vs. No. 2 Kansas

Analysis: The March 9 showdown with Big 12 power Kansas is the most important game of the season. It could be the big victory that Baylor needs to shore up their place in the NCAA tourney, or it could be a tough loss at home to a team that has long dominated the conference.  

Team MVP so far: Isaiah Austin… The 7-footer will be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft if he chooses to declare. His ability to operate in the post, as well as on the perimeter, gives Baylor a playmaker that is almost impossible for other teams to account for. Jackson got the preseason awards, but Austin has been the key to the Bears success.

Player to watch: Brady Heslip….Heslip’s stats are down in every major category.  His shooting percentage has dropped by eight percentage points since last season. If he can find the stroke he once had, Baylor could easily find itself back in the Elite 8 in March.

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