We've talked for years around these parts about one of the hallmarks of good coaching: finishing a season a better team than you began it. Art Briles' teams are notorious for it, reeling off big winning streaks to finish both 2011 and 2012 and set themselves up for big things the following year. With the way Baylor MBB is playing, we might want to start talking about that idea with Scott Drew, as well.
Today was the latest impressive performance in what we've come to call the Baylor turnaround, a 88-75 road win over a solid West Virginia team. Royce O'Neale led the way for the Bears with 22 points on 8-8 shooting, including 4-4 from 3, followed by Isaiah Austin with 19 and Cory Jefferson with 15. That's a combined 56 points from the frontcourt, which is pretty much exactly what the strength of this team should be.
I attribute much of the credit for Baylor's turnaround today (the Bears actually trailed by 8 at halftime) to the fact that despite not shooting a single free throw in the first half, we finished the game with 21. That, to me, indicates aggressiveness, particularly on the part of Jefferson and Austin, and a commitment in the second half to pounding an undersized West Virginia squad in the paint. Again, that's exactly what the strength of this team should be, and it feels like we're seeing that strength come to bear more and more as the season goes on.
Bears Basketball Schedule
Next 5 Games
|@ Texas||Wed 02/26||8:00 PM CST|
|Texas Tech||Sat 03/01||12:30 PM CST|
|Iowa St.||Tue 03/04||6:00 PM CST|
|@ Kansas St.||Sat 03/08||12:30 PM CST|
Last 5 Games
|@ West Virginia||Sat 02/22||W 88 - 75|
|Oklahoma St.||Mon 02/17||W 70 - 64|
|Kansas St.||Sat 02/15||W 87 - 73|
|@ TCU||Wed 02/12||W 91 - 58|
|@ Oklahoma||Sat 02/08||L 72 - 88|
With six wins in the best conference in college basketball, the Bears are now probably situated on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, though it will take some work to stay there. My opinion is that if Baylor can split the final four games of the season, two of which are at home, and win at least one game in the Big 12 tournament, they should be firmly in the field of 60-whatever. That's a 20-win season with a strong OOC record, a solid RPI (ESPN had us at 44 coming into today) and, potentially, no losses to teams outside the top-100 in RPI (depending on what Tech does). Considering where we were at 2-8 just two weeks ago, that's incredibly impressive.
Player of the Game:
Royce O'Neale -- like it could be anyone else.
A few reactions from the twitterverse:
so Baylor just scored 52 points with 0 turnovers in the 2nd half. that's decent #SicEm— Jared Hamby (@TWKftw) February 22, 2014
In Bubblicious battle, Baylor housed West Virginia outscoring Mountaineers 52-33 in second half. Bears very much a tourney team.— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) February 22, 2014
Look past the your/you're thing.
Huge road win for Baylor at WVU. Outscored WVU by 19 in 2nd half. Probably need to go 2-2 down the stretch for a bid.— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) February 22, 2014
Baylor should move ahead of WVU in the Big 12 pecking order with this massive win. Bears have @ TEX, TX TECH, Iowa St, @ KSU. Win at least 2— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) February 22, 2014
Baylor won its fourth straight today at West Virginia, resuscitating their tournament chances. #CBSSuperSocial— Jerry Palm (@jppalmCBS) February 22, 2014
Just a few.