Typically, when people bring up Baylor, they mention preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Perry Jones III (6-11 235), a freak athlete and a lottery pick. And they mention the Bears' outstanding size and length.
But when you look at what the Bears accomplish on paper, they have the profile of a perimeter-oriented team. And it's worth noting that the two teams to hand the Bears (18-2 overall, 5-2 Big 12) defeats this season — Kansas and Missouri — have won the battle of the boards by a combined 71-50 margin.
The Bears aren't an especially good rebounding team, especially considering that length (and rank behind Texas in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. But they're second only to Iowa State in three-pointers per game and are shooting a league-best 41.4 percent from behind the arc in conference play.
Jones remains an enigmatic talent, somebody with more size and athleticism than anybody in the conference. Yet he ranks outside of the league's top-10 in scoring in conference play, and he doesn't block shots at an especially high rate. And in matchups with Thomas Robinson and Ricardo Ratliffe, two of the better posts in the Big 12, Jones was out-played and out-rebounded.
He's flanked by Quincy Acy, a slightly undersized four (6-7 235) who adds a lot of heart. He's second in the Big 12 in blocked shots. But the other frontcourt player is even more intriguing. Freshman small forward Quincy Miller (6-9 210) has outstanding size and athleticism, and is actually the Bears' top scorer (at 15.3 points per game) in conference play. Miller can score inside-out, and seems to be gaining steam as he goes. He's a mismatch for most opponents.
But a big part of the reason the Bears are improved this year has to do with the backcourt, and specifically the play of Pierre Jackson (5-10 180) at point guard. Jackson is leading the Big 12 with nine assists and 2.57 steals per game in conference play. He's also tops in three-point percentage, making 53.3 percent of his threes. Brady Heslip (6-2 180) teams with Jackson to give the Bears even more of an outside shooting presence, as he hits almost 42 percent.
The Bears are also loaded in terms of depth, with several interchangeable pieces that they can bring through.
On one hand, Baylor seems to be an impossible matchup for Texas. Jones typically feasts on teams with inferior post units, and despite the recent play of Clint Chapman, Texas is undermanned in that area compared to the Bears. The Longhorns have also been troubled, at times, on the road by excellent three-point shooting teams, and the Bears are as good as it gets in that area.
But with two losses in their last three games, people have question this team's toughness, and Texas is one of the best rebounding teams in the league. The Longhorns are still figuring things out, especially offensively, but they have the defense and toughness to at least make a game of it. And with how well Texas has played in close losses at Kansas State (Baylor won a tight one in Manhattan), to Kansas at home (Baylor was blown out at Kansas) and in its most recent win against Iowa State, the Longhorns are capable of causing some trouble.