Bears Begin NCAA Journey Against Jackrabbits

The Baylor Bears will look to continue some late season momentum into the NCAA Tournament. It all starts tonight in the Albuquerque regional against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. BearsIllustrated breaks down what we see from the Jackrabbits.

After analyzing South Dakota State's (SDSU) most recent game in the Summit League final against Western Illinois (WIU), we had several observations on a very solid Jackrabbits team. WIU was the 4 seed coming in, but knocked off Oral Roberts in the semi's. They are a tough team that plays excellent defense. They typically don't go for offensive rebounds just so they can get back on defense quickly. SDSU eventually won this game 52-50 in overtime.

Style

Both teams ran man to man defenses. Neither team appeared overally athletic, although WIU might have been slightly more athletic, but less talented when it comes to pure basketball skill. WIU did have a couple of good shooters, but not near as many as SDSU.

Offensive Style - Offensively, SDSU is at it's best when it is playing an inside/out game. Wolters (#3) is their stud. He controls the ball every single time up the court. I don't believe he came out of the ball game that I watched. In certain sets he will simply take the ball down towards the top of the key, facing up to the basket. He clearly has a green light to do a number of things - shoot, dribble penetrate, or pass. I will get more into him individually down below, but this is the initiation of their offense.

Most times, Wolters gets it over to the wing who tries to hit someone in the post (usually Dykstra (#42) or Fiegen (#34)). That post player is rarely looking to make a move inside, and when he did against WIU, it rarely resulted in a bucket. Instead, it seems his sole goal is to put some pressure on the defense and to kick it back out. From there, when they are at their best, guys are moving and cutting to the hole. They like to reverse the ball to try to get guys open - and when they reverse it multiple times, they can typically find someone.

Keep in mind Wolters had a bad game against WIU (shot 5-22), but in this game I would say 25% of their possessions ended with Wolters making some move to the hole and either trying to put up a runner or dishing it to someone if he was double-teamed.

WIU actually had a very good defensive strategy against him in that they would try to put a classic defensive stopper on him, but would often bring help at the very last second on these runner shots. That caused a lot of tough shots (and misses) from Wolters, but also prevented him from dumping the ball off because it was really too late.

Most of their shooters have very good range, they don't have to be right on top of the 3 line to make it. They do shoot a ton of jumpers. But again, I think they are coached to work inside/out because they are way better when they do it. I even noted Coach Nagy yelling "get it inside" in the first 5 minutes of the game.

Their assist to turnover ratio is one of the best in the country. Against WIU, they had 1 player (Dykstra) struggle with turnovers, but other than that, they were very good at getting shots on each possession.

Defensive Style - Like I said above, they play a man to man defense. However, they do not try to fight over screens very often. They often let themselves be screened and simply switch during on the ball screen situations. In our case, we should be able to punish them if they do this to us. If Baylor is disciplined and backs the ball out, they could have a big switching onto Pierre Jackson. Jackson could either break the guy down or try to find the resulting mismatch of a smaller guy trying to guard a post; certainly either scenario results in a mismatch in Baylor's favor.

SDSU really doesn't have much heighth or strength on the inside. If Baylor can't make this team pay inside, then they'll never be able to do it. Dykstra is probably the closest thing to being able to hang with an Acy, but even then, his explosion is not there and if Acy's knees are feeling okay, then he should be able to go off a bit in this game.

They don't really pressure the ball a ton, so Baylor should have pretty clear passing lanes. This is also a game where I can see Baylor guard Brady Heslip causing some damage because of the lack of pressure. WIU had several guys get open looks from 3, but really only had 1 player that could hit consistently.

The other thing they don't do is foul very much. Against WIU, they only had 2 fouls in the entire first half. I'm not sure WIU ever made it in the bonus in the 2nd half either. They may not pressure a ton, but this helps them to really avoid foul trouble.

Personnel

Nate Wolters (#3) - Wolters is their do it all point guard. He's got good size for the position he runs, and really isn't a great matchup for Pierre Jackson. I can see him taking Jackson to the hoop and simply rising up over him to shoot shots in the lane.

The thing I was surprised about is how often he pulled up for perimeter shots. This is not a guy that is afraid to shoot from anywhere. He has a poor 3 point shooting percentage, but I can see him catching fire in certain games and going off. He has a nice looking stroke and can get his shot off quickly. He did hit a few jumpers just inside the 3 point line. While his tendency is to try to get inside, don't think he won't shoot it from deep if Baylor lets him.

Wolters can try to do too much at times, and this is where Baylor has to exploit SDSU. Their whole team seems to get down when he's not playing well. Quite honestly, Baylor just needs to use the WIU strategy against him that worked so well. If Baylor can score more than 44 points in regulation, which Baylor obviously can, then they could have beaten them easily in that Summit League final game. When Wolters tries to do too much, he really gets sloppy. He doesn't necessarily turn it over a ton, but he starts to put up extremely difficult shots and ignores his teammates a bit.

So again, if I am the coach, I play the majority of the game with either A.J. Walton or Deuce Bello on Wolters. The reason is I believe if you take him out of the game, the rest of their team really struggles. When he drives to the hole, Baylor's interior post defender at the time has to run at him at the exact right time. Do it too early, and he will find the dump off pass for an easy score. Do it too late, and he's liable to get some easy buckets. Do it at the right time, and he will struggle to make shots.

Griffan Callahan (#33) - Griffin Callahan is their senior leader, and second leading scorer on the team. He's a 6'4" forward who wears a sleeve on his right arm. When SDSU was down at the half to WIU, he was the guy rallying the troops. Not only is he a vocal leader, but he hit some huge shots including the game winning 3 pointer in overtime. He does not look to shoot a ton, but he should. He is one of many with a smooth stroke from outside, and if he gets set with space, he can kill Baylor.

He doesn't only shoot 3's though. At the end of regulation, in the last 20 seconds, he took it inside and drew a foul to get 2 free throws. He made them both, tied the game, and sent it into overtime. He appears very clutch.

Jordan Dykstra (#42) - Dykstra is a poor man's RT Guinn. For the youngsters, Guinn was a 6'10" forward Baylor had during the Dave Bliss years that played a little like Steve Kerr. He was big, strong, and could probably cause some problems inside - but he camped in the corner a lot. Dykstra is not exactly like that, but reminds me of that somewhat. He is not as strong and not as tall as Guinn was. He also posts up a little more to set their offense up. Having said that, he will shoot jumpers all day long, and will still spend a good amount of time at the 3 point line. This is where he could cause Baylor problems defensively, because he should probably be guarded by Quincy Acy - but Acy has to know he can hit outside jumpers - and likes to shoot them a lot.

Chad White (#25) - Chad White comes off the bench, but is maybe their 4th best player. He came in and hit a 3 immediately for them. He was not afraid, and had several key plays throughout the game.

Brayden Carlson (#12) - Carlson is simply another one of these guards with decent size that will float around looking for 3 pointers the whole game. He has an extremely smooth stroke, although he wasn't necessarily on fire in that WIU game.

Tony Fiegen (#34) - This is a red-headed guy that will try to post up like Dykstra. He got a few buckets around the rim off of good feeds from Wolters. He does not shoot as much as Dykstra from the outside, and has okay size.

Overall Impression and Game Thoughts

The thing I loved about SDSU was their gumption. They were really cold all night long. Part of that might have been WIU's defensive strategy, but they also just flat out missed some open jumpers. They went 10 minutes without a FG during one stretch in the game - ranging from the end of the 1st half to the beginning of the 2nd half. They also trailed by 12 points with 15 minutes to go, and still trailed by 10 with 10 minutes to go. Having said that, they clearly never gave up and really didn't panic. Even on the last play of regulation, they looked in control and simply worked their offense.

In some ways, this type of team should scare Baylor fans. Depending on the style of defense Baylor decides to run, and more depending on the effort Baylor gives on defense, I could envision a scenario where SDSU gets really hot from outside and builds a lead. As the underdog, most of the arena will likely be rooting for SDSU, and they play better with the crowd behind them (the Summit final featured a big home court advantage for SDSU).

But, I am confident they have not played against the athletes of Baylor University. With all due respect to WIU, they are not on the same planet athletically as Baylor. If Baylor can combine its athleticism with focused and controlled play, Baylor should really blow SDSU out. Baylor should be able to prevent them from getting comfortable shots, and on the other end, Baylor should be able to put tons of pressure on them by taking it inside.

I respect what SDSU did in making their first ever NCAA tourney (they have only been a D1 team a short while), but Baylor needs to welcome them to the tourney by sending them home early. Baylor doesn't want to allow them to build any sort of lead and then see itself start to fret. Baylor is the better team and should be able to use its personnel to cause them lots of problems.

For Baylor fans - here's hoping we get a great victory and make it to the round of 32. Sic em!


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