If you're joining us from Bucky's 5th Quarter, welcome to Our Daily Bears. We're (mostly) fun, (mostly) friendly, and (universally) appreciative of civil guests. Discuss, debate, and crack jokes until your keyboards break and your hands fall off.
Baylor Nation's focus is set almost exclusively on tomorrow evening's Sweet Sixteen matchup versus No. 2 seed Wisconsin in Anaheim. This will be the first true neutral site either team has experienced so far in the tournament, but with squads as strong as Scott Drew and Bo Ryan have put together, I doubt crowd noise would affect the game either way.
After doing some lurking around Bucky's 5th Quarter (SB Nation's Wisconsin blog) and other Wisconsin sites, I've learned a good bit about Wisconsin's team. They're a very solid group with no glaring weaknesses, and won't be an easy out if Baylor pulls off the win tomorrow. They possess outside shooting that is comparable to Iowa State, though not as frighteningly accurate as Creighton. They have big men that make their presence felt in the pain and have the skills to score from any range, but lack the bruising quality of Texas' Cam Ridley. They have men that can consistently throw down fadeaway jumpers and shooting specialists that would earn nods of approval from Brady Heslip himself. Watching Wisconsin play doesn't instill fear, but it doesn't leave you walking away with an idea of how to beat them either.
I may be completely off-base, but I see this game coming down to a few key matchups. I'll lay out my personal opinions and let y'all go at it in the comments.
The first battle will be between Isaiah Austin and Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky is extremely dangerous, averaging 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on the season. He is also a capable three-point shooter, but shooting from beyond the arc doesn't appear to be his favorite scoring option. He is a bit shorter and a bit stronger than Austin, and has the skills to score from anywhere he pleases. If he dominates Austin, Baylor will fight an uphill battle all night long.
Austin is no pushover. While he's been lackluster during many points of his career, he has been on fire as of late. Austin's 7'1 height and wingspan to match give him a length advantage over almost any other player in the country, and Kaminsky is no different. Austin is a fierce protector of the rim with 117 blocks on the season, more than double Kaminsky's total. He lags a bit in scoring (11.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.5 rpg) but makes a difference when his shots are falling. Austin has a nasty skyhook and is learning to use his height on offense, and he's not at all helpless from three-point range.
If Austin proves that he can handle Kaminsky, then Scott Drew can extend his zone defense and take away more of Wisconsin's options. If Kaminsky wins this one, then the rest of Baylor's defense will need to bring their best.
The second key is rebounding on Baylor's end of the court. While Rico Gathers is the kind of the boards in Waco, Royce O'Neale is the most important player here. O'Neale has rebounded in the double digits in several games since becoming the established starter at his position, and his aggressiveness takes a lot of pressure off of Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin. Baylor has picked up 39% of its offensive rebound opportunities this season. Wisconsin's defensive rebounding rate is 75%. There's a lot of overlap there, and if Gathers and O'Neale can win this battle for Baylor and secure second-chance points for the Bears then we're just one step closer to victory.
Both teams are good with outside shooting. Both possess a three-point specialist who plays scrappy defense, and both have a guy who can get penetration and knock down a midrange jumper. There are intriguing matchups all over the floor and no obvious mismatches on either side. This is gonna be fun.
If you're a Wisconsin fan and you have a disagreement, fresh perspective, or hilarious Badger gif, I direct you to the comments.
All the Rest
I'm averaging about two hours of sleep per night this week, and I'm what you'd call "artificially awake" right now, so I'll wrap this up as best as I can and rely on you, the ODB community, to generate conversation today.
No. 12 Baylor Softball Splits with Sam Houston. The Lady Bears fell in 10 innings to Sam Houston State, 4-3 before exploding for a 12-0 win over the Bearkats in the nightcap Tuesday. Sam Holl can break your ribs. His sister Holly can shatter them with a metal stick.
Track & Field Heads South For Texas Relays. After winning nine events at its outdoor season opener, the Baylor track and field team will travel to Austin, Texas, for four days of competition at the 87th-annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Men's Golf Takes Second at Lone Star Invitational. AWWWW YEAH GOLF NEWS. The Baylor men's golf team took second place in the Lone Star Invitational after shooting 7-under-par 281 in Tuesday's final round at Briggs Ranch Golf Club. The Bears moved up one spot into second place by shooting the second-lowest round by any team in the tournament.
No. 29 Baseball's Five-Game Win Streak vs. UTA Snapped. No. 29 Baylor baseball lost 14-3 to UT Arlington on Tuesday evening at Clay Gould Ballpark. Oh. Yeah, that's not good.
Can Baylor baseball make everyone play in Waco for the rest of the season? We've been solid at home and abysmal anywhere else.— David Fankhauser (@dfank_BU) March 26, 2014
I bet Rico Gathers could play baseball. Imagine how hard he could swing that bat. Did you know that Rico Gathers didn't even life weights until he got to college? I bet if he'd started lifting in high school he'd be a designated hitter in the MLB right now.
The Lady Bears take on Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at 11 a.m. Sunday in South Bend. Yes, the same Kentucky that won after four overtimes early in the season. Yes, a rematch is happening at another neutral site, but this time *mysterious gong noise* the loser goes home for good.