Stretch Run for the Bears

6 games. That is all that is left of the regular season. We are 2/3rds of the way through the Big 12 schedule, so let's catch up on where the Bears are at and how they are looking for the stretch run.

At this point, the Bears are in the NCAA tournament. What we don't know is seeding. With the Bears going 0-4 against Missouri and Kansas, I would say that the Big 12 title is out of the picture barring a miracle and a bunch of upsets. So what do the Baylor Bears have left?

Date Opponent Realtime RPI Kenpom StatSheet RPI
13-Feb Iowa State 45 32 41
18-Feb Kansas State 51 27 51
20-Feb at Texas 54 20 48
25-Feb Oklahoma 84 102 103
27-Feb Texas Tech 233 224 221
3-Mar at Iowa State 45 32 41

Iowa State is tied with us for 3rd in the Big 12 going into tonight's game. They have been a very good home team, but have been up and down on the road so far this year. Plus we have Kansas State coming to Waco and Texas down in Austin. Those are four difficult games against solid teams, but the Bears should be favored in all of their remaining regular season games.

Realtime RPI has us finishing 4-2 with both of our losses coming on the road creating a final record of 24-6 (12-6). Right now, the Bears have played the 11th hardest schedule according to StatSheet.com. That will probably dip a bit due to OU and Texas Tech, but lets say it is Top 15. That is a very good year, and more than likely, the most successful regular season in modern-era history for the Bears.

Taking into account where the Bears are now, and what they have left ahead of them, let's take a look at 3 important questions.

1. What seed will the Bears hear on Selection Sunday?

I still think a 3 seed is most likely. The Bears are ranked 6th or 7th in RPI (according to multiple sites) after the Missouri loss, and will probably fall to 9th or so in the AP and coaches poll. Using the assumption that the 4-2 projection above is correct, I would anticipate a #3 seed. The Bears will more than likely get another shot at Missouri or Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. That will help with seeding as well.

If everything breaks for the Bears, and they win their remaining conference games and get to the semi-finals of the Big 12 tournament at least, I think a 2 seed could be in play. If Baylor wins all of their games plus the Big 12 tournament, a 1-seed will still be a stretch, unless they beat both Missouri and Kansas on their way to the title.

Even with that though, they would need to get some breaks, with other potential fringe #1 seeds (Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke). I think Syracuse and Kentucky have pretty much wrapped up their #1 seed, and I would be shocked if either team fell.

The goal should be a 4 seed or better. The Bears would be favored to get to another Sweet 16. That would be a solid year for the Bears, but not a great one.

2. Why have the Bears struggled against Missouri and Kansas?

Missouri and Kansas are two experienced teams. In fact, they are the most experienced teams in the Big 12.

Avg Team W L Pct Conf W L Pct RPI SOS Fr So Jr Sr
3.48 Missouri 23 2 0.92 10 2 0.833 8 76 1 1 2 7
3.13 Kansas 20 5 0.8 10 2 0.833 5 5 4 3 5 3
2.89 Iowa State 18 7 0.72 8 4 0.667 41 67 2 4 4 2
2.85 Oklahoma 13 11 0.542 3 9 0.25 103 44 1 3 7 2
2.82 Texas A&M 12 12 0.5 3 9 0.25 163 84 4 3 4 5
2.59 Baylor 21 4 0.84 8 4 0.667 6 11 2 4 3 3
2.4 Kansas State 17 7 0.708 6 6 0.5 51 81 6 3 5 2
2.03 Oklahoma State 12 13 0.48 5 7 0.417 106 18 6 1 3 2
2 Texas 16 9 0.64 6 6 0.5 48 16 6 0 3 2
1.96 Texas Tech 8 16 0.333 1 11 0.083 221 94 7 3 1 1

However, that does not tell the whole story. Just because you have experienced players does not mean they play (Fred Ellis nodding his head). Below is a graph that will show you the average class per minute. The Bears rank 5th in the above chart, but when you weigh it per minute, the Bears fall to 6th.

However, even that chart is not fully representative of time spent in a program, it just represents what class they are in. Missouri and Kansas are dependent on players that have been in their program for years. The top 7 players for Kansas have a combined 26 years in the program. Missouri's have 21 years. The Bears have 17. That is a BIG difference. This is not the only reason the Bears have lost badly to these two teams, but it is a reason I have not seen much discussion on.

3. Is Baylor an Elite team?

Simply put, no they are not. This is a very good basketball team, that has shown flashes of taking the next step, but has not been able to do it in the marquee games. So why aren't they elite? We talked about experience a bit above, so I won't rehash that. What I do want to talk about is the positional strength and how Coach Drew has put together his roster during his whole tenure.

Once Coach Drew got the Bears out of the doldrums and had something of a full roster, we found it to be very guard heavy. However, we were lacking in the size department and did not have a balanced roster. He started 3 guards for several years that were all under 6-3. We started a power forward that was more of a perimeter player in spirit (sound familiar?), and did not have the size inside to compete against great teams.

Now looks at this years team. We have tons of size, but what positions are these players best suited to play?

-Quincy Acy: 6-7, 235. Plays center for the Bears, but is much more of an power forward. Plays bigger than 6'7" height due to long arms. Aggressive and active on both ends. Average on the ball or low post defender, but very good as help defender.

-Perry Jones III: 6-11, 235. Plays power forward, but his game is all Small Forward. Not a banger at all, and would rather play a finesse game. Long enough to be a good blocker, but just doesn't do it. Has shown flashes of rebounding ability but not consistent. Really, you could say that about his whole game.

-Quincy Miller: 6-9, 210. Plays small forward, but I would classify him more as a shooting guard. Likes to play from the perimeter and attack. Very good spot up shooter. Not quick enough to cover guards, and too light to go down low and defend/rebound with posts.

-Anthony Jones: 6-10, 195. Plays small forward, and is actually a small forward. Really just a spot up shooter on offense. Has never proven capable on the block despite huge height advantage against most opponents. Not good at all in man defense, but very active out of a zone. Great at weak-side rebounding.

-Cory Jefferson: 6-9, 210. Plays center, but should be more of a power forward. Capable at center defensively. On offense has some okay low post moves, but still is very raw and uncomfortable at times with the ball. Once he gets the ball though, he is shooting.

So we have 1 center, 1 power forward, and 3 small forwards. We start a power forward and 2 small forwards. Drew has done a great job of getting talent on campus, but he has struggled to have a balanced roster. In fact, the only team that he has had that was truly balanced and well put together was by far his best team.

Two great stereotypical post players in Josh Lomers and Ekpe Udoh, a true PG in Tweety Carter, and the best scorer in Big 12 history, LaceDarius Dunn. Even the bench with spark-plugs like Quincy Acy and AJ Walton were great compliments to the starters. That was a very well constructed team that had players for all of the roles needed on the court.

The 2011-2012 version of the Bears are not well constructed, and thus have struggled against elite teams.

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