I like to keep things positive in these post-game recaps, so I won't mention the fact that Isaiah Austin was basically non-existent in what might have been his last game in Waco (except for right then when I just mentioned it). I'll be similarly reticent to note the crunch time lineup of Jefferson, Pierre, A.J. Walton (until he fouled out), Rico Gathers, and Brady Heslip. I'll focusing instead on Pierre Jackson and Cory Jefferson, two players I'm running out of new superlatives for with their play in the NIT. Once again, the Two Presidents (h/t to Brook1994) carried Baylor's team, this time against a feisty Providence squad led by Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts.
I never got a great feeling about this game, despite the fact that we led basically throughout, because of how we were playing as a whole. It felt like Pierre and Cory might finally buckle under the pressure of carrying the load, like we were asking too much of them after this entire season. They didn't. And now the Bears get a rematch in NYC against the BYU Cougars, the same team Baylor defeated by 15 in Waco in late December.
It's easy to sit here now in what is basically hindsight and imagine how this team might have performed in the other, more notable Tournament had they been given the chance. They're certainly playing well enough to make you think they could have gone on a run. I'm not going there in part because I think the perceived insult of not making it woke them up a bit. That doesn't diminish from what they're doing now at all; they're the only Texas team still playing and, along with Kansas, helping carry the conference banner in postseason play. Even better, with UVA losing tonight to Iowa and Alabama doing the same to Maryland, I'd guess the Bears are both the highest-seed remaining right now and the favorite to win the whole thing. Now all that's left is to do it.
Congrats, Baylor!! Oh, and nice job again tonight from the fans that did show up. Though lackluster in number (something we needed to change yesterday and I find very frustrating), they sounded great in giving Pierre, A.J., Jacob Neubert, and whoever else leaves the home send-off they deserved.
Baylor's next game is schedule for next Tuesday, April 2nd. The time has yet to be determined.