5 Questions: Baylor

BRR talks with BearsIllustrated.com's publisher Steve Brischke about Baylor.

1.) Baylor has won 10 out of their last 12 contests, what sparked the turnaround?

The number 1 thing was getting point guard Kenny Chery healthy. He was bothered by turf toe in the first part of conference play, only missing 1 game completely, but either missing tons of minutes or not being able to play at a top level many of those other games. He is the team's only true point and plays 35 minutes plus in important games, so the loss of Chery was significant. He got healed and since that time the team has gone on a tremendous run.

2.) When teams have had success on offense playing against their zone this year, what have done?

Typically you will see 1 of 2 things. Either a hot shooting night or hot shooting stretch, like you saw from Iowa State in the 2nd half of the Big 12 Championship game, or the ability to get the ball to the free throw lines or short corners. There are holes in the zone, and it's all about exploiting them. When the Bears are at their best, they are closing out on 3 point shooters, forcing action into the middle of the lane, where Isaiah Austin has proved to be a capable shot blocker (leading the Big 12) and shot changer.

3.) Baylor seems to be so balanced on the offensive side of the floor with four guys with double-digit scoring, but with the tournament here who is the guy teams need to focus on offensively.

As you alluded to, this team is unlike other Scott Drew teams that have typically had 1 or 2 volume shooters (and scorers) with other complementing parts. If you were to slow 1 guy that would really harm Baylor I would say Cory Jefferson. Jefferson struggled against Iowa State in that Championship game referenced above, and the Bears were a different team because of it. When his inside game is flourishing, it causes teams to collapse which then frees up Baylor's sharp shooter Brady Heslip. But if Jefferson (or Austin) can't get going inside, the offense seems to stall out.

4.) Nebraska will have a hard time matching up with Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin size. When teams have taken them out of their game, what have they done?

Both guys are somewhat of inside/outside players, and you will see them each take a 3 from time to time. Austin used to do much more of this last year, but they still do it to keep defenses honest. However, where they are much more important to Baylor is on the block. Quick and harassing double-teams have been effective to disrupt their rhythm. And at times, they can go into a funk if you can get them off their game early.

5.) What kind of crowd will Baylor get in San Antonio because of the closeness factor?

I suspect it will be a pretty good crowd for Baylor in San Antonio. When Baylor played in the Elite 8 in Houston a few years ago, there were easily over 20,000 Baylor fans. The first (errr, second and third) round games don't bring the feel of the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 of course, but there are still plenty of fans that will make the trip down. Hard to say what the number will be since each school's allotment of tickets was so small.

Your prediction and keys to a Baylor win.

Bonus: Naturally, I'm going to predict a Baylor win, but certainly the game could go either way with both teams being so hot down the stretch. For Baylor, they have to be efficient on offense (something they have been good about this year) and not turn the ball over (something they have been hot and cold on this year). The Bears have been a good rebounding team, and I expect that to continue. When they have struggled, it's either not getting shots up because of turnovers, or simply not running their offense efficiently and going through long dry spells in games. If they can curtail that, then I think they have the personnel to get it done.

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