Bubble Watch: 5 Reasons Why Baylor Won’t Make the Big Dance
Baylor Will Miss the Big Dance
Entering the 2013-14 college basketball season, the Baylor Bears were one of the more highly-thought of teams in both the Big 12 conference and the country. Despite missing the NCAA tournament a season ago, the Bears built some momentum by capturing the NIT title with a 74-54 demolition of the Iowa Hawkeyes at Madison Square Garden. When you add that to the fact that twice in the prior three seasons, the Bears had advanced all the way to the Elite Eight before being knocked out, and there was no reason to doubt Baylor's ability to play on the national stage.
Early in the season, it appeared that the Bears were going to fulfill that promise. Baylor started 6-0 with wins over a couple of decent teams, Colorado and Dayton. Following a seven-point loss to Syracuse, who is still undefeated and ranked No. 1, the Bears defeated then-No. 3 Kentucky by five. The Bears entered conference play 12-1, with one win that looked to be really great and two others that figured to help them make their NCAA tournament case.
None of which could have prepared anyone for what has been seen from Baylor since the Bears began their Big 12 slate. Baylor is 4-8 in the conference, and that record only is what it is because the Bears have won two straight games. But even that is a bit misleading. One of those recent wins, and two of Baylor's conference wins, are against TCU, a team that is winless in the Big 12. Another win came over Oklahoma State, which is the only other team along with TCU currently below Baylor in the conference standings. A win Saturday over Kansas State was nice, but with only two games left against ranked teams (Texas and Iowa State), it's going to be very difficult for the Bears to make a solid case for inclusion in this year's NCAA tournament.
Here's five reasons why the Baylor Bears will miss the tourney.
5. Baylor Has Few Notable Wins
Baylor has four wins that you could consider as beneficial toward an NCAA tournament case, those coming against Kentucky, Colorado, Dayton and Kansas State. But you can almost immediately erase two of those wins because the Bears also have two wins over non-Division I competition (Chaminade and Hardin-Simmons). So not only is Baylor just 16-9 on the season, but the Bears are a mere 14-9 vs. D-1 competition. There are many teams that have a better list of wins than Baylor at this point.
4. Baylor's Offense Has Been Struggling
The numbers will tell you that Baylor is in the top 75 in the nation in scoring, at just short of 76 points per game. But in reality, the Bears haven't been nearly that proficient of late. Since Big 12 play started, Baylor has only averaged 72.2 PPG, with that average just now increasing thanks to a 91-58 win over hapless TCU and the 87-73 victory over K-State, but the Bears needed double overtime to hit that mark. During a four-game stretch in late January (all losses), Baylor failed to score more than 68 points in any game.
3. Baylor's Attack is Too Balanced
For some teams, having a balanced offensive attack with many players who can score just seems to work. For Baylor, however, it hasn't. The Bears have no standout go-to guy to get the ball to when they need offense. Cory Jefferson leads the team at just 12.6 PPG, and while he is one of four Bears to average in double figures, they just don't have enough weapons to compete against the better teams in the Big 12. In addition, nine Baylor players each average more than 10 minutes per game. Jefferson only gets about 27 minutes per game.
2. Baylor Struggles at the Free-Throw Line
To win close games, especially late in the season, teams must be pretty good at hitting free throws, and the Baylor Bears aren't. Baylor shoots just 66 percent from the line. Other than Kenny Chery, who shoots 94 percent but has taken only 50 free throws this season, the Bears can be an adventure at the line. Three players -- Ish Wainright, Royce O'Neale and Rico Gathers -- who average a combined 56 minutes of court time per game, shoot 56.7 percent from the line (119-for-210).
1. Baylor's Big 12 Record is Just Too Poor
No matter who a team has beaten outside of conference play or how many wins it racked up in November and December, at some point teams have to win some conference games and Baylor just hasn't been able to do that. While the Bears have won their last two, the 4-8 Big 12 record is a huge red flag to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, especially in a year where the Big 12 is decent, but not great. With six games left, Baylor must go 5-1 to even have an at-large shot, and that seems unlikely to happen given what we've seen from the Bears so far this season.