Bears Open Tournament with Georgia State

With a 3-seed as its reward, the Baylor Bears face off against the champions of the Sun Belt Conference, Georgia State. The Panthers have talented transfers leading the way. What can the Bears do to avoid the upset?

After a long season, including 33 basketball games, 20 of which coming in the grueling Big 12, the Baylor Bears start the final run of their 2015 season. The reward for a 24-9 season against one of the more difficult schedules in college basketball is a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament and a date with Georgia State on Thursday morning. The 14th seeded Panthers are champions of the Sun Belt, coming off of a 24-9 season of their own. Led by a trio of large school transfers; Ryan Harrow, Kevin Ware and Curtis Washington; to go along with coaches son R.J. Hunter, the Panthers have some legitimate talent on their roster, with some big game experience. With March Madness in full swing, what do the Bears need to do to avoid the upset bid, and end the Panthers run before it truly gets started?

No. 16 Baylor (24-9) vs. Georgia State (24-9)
Date March 19, 2015 | 12:40 p.m. CT
Location Jacksonville, Fla. | Veterans Memorial Arena (14,679)
Radio ESPN Central Texas
Online Audio Listen Online
Live Stats Gametracker
Twitter @BaylorMBB

Fun Stats of the Game

-Baylor is 11-10 in eight previous NCAA Championships trips, including an 8-4 record in the Scott Drew era

-Baylor is making back-to-back NCAA?Tournament apperances for the first time in program history

-Baylor is one of 12 teams nationally to play in three Sweet 16s since 2010

-Baylor is 39-30 in March/April games under Drew, including 14-4 in its last 18 March games

-Panther Guards R.J. Harrow and R.J. Hunter have made over 71% of the teams 3-pointers on the season

Keys to the Game

1. Dominate the Glass - The Bears are the 2nd best offensive rebounding team in the nation according to Georgia State is the 30th worst defensive rebounding team in the nation, and will be by far the worst rebounding team the Bears have seen in 2015. With the Panthers playing a zone defense primarily, they are often out of position to block out and secure rebounds. With just one rotation player over 6-foot-7, the Panthers struggle with size down low. Curtis Washington, a transfer from USC, is 6-foot-10. Their best rebounder is Marcus Crider, a 6-foot-6 forward who will be matched up quite a bit with Rico Gathers or Jonathan Motley. The Panthers don't really have a good rebounder, as they try and do it as a team with 5 players averaging 3+ rebounds per game.

Baylor of course features the best rebounder in the country in Ricardo Gathers. With Taurean Prince, Jonathan Motley, Royce O'Neale and the rest of the gang crashing the boards, Baylor should be able to secure the majority of rebounds in this contest. With a 45% offensive rebound rate, and good conversion of those 2nd chances into points, Baylor should be able to overcome a poor shooting game if it were to arise.

2. Don't Let them Get Hot from the Arc - The Panthers are not a good 3-point shooting team. They feature two players that can be very dangerous from behind the arc, but really have no one outside of that duo that Baylor will have to worry about. Ryan Harrow has been their best shooter this year, making 39% on the year. R.J. Hunter has struggled with accuracy at times this year, making only 30% of his 3-points, but he has made 75 of them. In fact, his 247 attempts are just over half of the teams overall attempts from behind the arc.

They make just 31.9% of their attempts as a team, but with two very capable shooters in Hunter and Harrow, the Bears will have to follow the scouting report and locate the deep threats. Challenge those two whenever they have the ball. Hunter and Harrow average 39 of the 72 points per game for the Panthers, so they carry the scoring load. A long shot, or at least a challenged shot by someone other than those two is a win for the Baylor defense.

3. Get the Tempo Going - In the past few games against slower teams, the Bears have been incredibly effective at speeding up the tempo and getting the pace of the game to a faster speed than their competition is comfortable with. The Panthers are a deliberately paced team, using their zone defense to slow down the opposition and limit possession. They are 257th in KenPom tempo, while the Bears are 297. However, Baylor has shown the ability to turn the tempo up and get out in transition against slower paced teams. The Panthers do a very good job of taking care of the ball (just 16.5% of their possessions end in turnovers), but the Bears have been exceptional at getting steals recently. With their length and athleticism being something that the Panthers aren't used to, Baylor should turn the pressure up and force the action.

Predictions – Baylor Wins 68-61 (77% chance for win) – Baylor Wins 68-59 (80% chance for win)

Tim Watkins Writer– Baylor wins 75-62

The Bears will win this game behind the arc, both on offense and defense. If they can hit open 3-pointers and extend the Panthers zone, their offense should score enough to withstand the Panther attack. If the Bears defense holds GSU to their normal output on offense and they don't get hot from behind the arc, the Bears should be able to advance even if they struggle from long-range on offense. Simply put, the Bears need to be cold from the arc, and the Panthers need to be hot for an upset to happen. Even then, it isn't a sure thing, if the Bears and their offensive rebounders can do enough damage to mitigate the long-range misses. Baylor is too good of a team, and too well-rounded to be upset without GSU playing almost perfectly and the Bears struggling. I just don't see both of those things happening. With Kenny Chery and Royce O'Neale hitting outside shots and the Bears posts carrying the load inside, Bears get off to a good start in the 2015 tournament.

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