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NCAA Basketball Baylor Bears

5 Things Baylor Basketball Must Do To Make 2014 NCAA Tournament

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5 Things Baylor Basketball Must Do To Make The 2014 NCAA Tournament

5 Things Baylor Basketball Must Do To Make The 2014 NCAA Tournament
Dan Friend - USATODAY Sports

Now that we've entered the final week of February with March right around the corner, it’s officially crunch time for college basketball teams that are on the bubble for a spot in the NCAA tournament. One such team is the Baylor Bears, who at one point this season looked like a lock for the tournament and a national championship contender; now, just making the tournament is far from a certainty.

Baylor got off to a 12-1 start this season with an impressive collection of wins against teams like Colorado, Dayton and Kentucky. The lone loss suffered by the Bears early in the season was in the finals of the Maui Invitation against Syracuse. Despite that loss to Syracuse, Baylor was able to work its way up into the top 10 of the national polls by the time conference play started in January.

However, things quickly headed south for the Bears once they began play in the Big 12, which has turned out to be one of the top conferences in college basketball this season. Baylor lost eight of its first 10 conference games, quickly knocking the Bears out of the polls and sending them towards the bottom of the Big 12 standings, putting their NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy.

But the Bears have responded with four straight wins, including two overtime thrillers, which have given Baylor renewed hope of landing a spot in the Big Dance. But there is still a lot of work left to do, and Baylor has to do these five things to make sure its end up with an invitation to the NCAA tournament.

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5. Just Keep Winning

Just Keep Winning
Jim Cowsert - USATODAY Sports

After a terrible start to conference play, the Bears have won four in a row, and they need to keep that going. No one can keep a team out of the NCAA tournament if it keeps winning games, and even though Baylor barely squeaked by in a couple of games that went to overtime, it has developed a lot of momentum from four straight wins. It needs to keep it up.

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4. Get To .500 In Conference Play

Get To .500 In Conference Play
Jim Cowsert - USATODAY Sports

It’s tough for the selection committee to put a team in the tournament that has a losing record inside its own conference, no matter how good the league is. Baylor needs to win at least three of its final four games to get to 9-9 in conference play, which won’t be a great record, but it would be much better than having the stigma of a losing record in conference play. That would be a big help in getting into the tournament.

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3. Don't Lose To Texas Tech Again

Don't Lose To Texas Tech Again
Michael C. Johnson - USATODAY Sports

One loss to Texas Tech is bad enough, and other than that road loss to the Red Raiders back in January, Baylor has done a good job of avoiding bad losses this season. However, they can't afford a second loss to Texas Tech on its tournament resume. If nothing else, the Bears need to take care of business at home and against teams below them in the Big 12 standings, and that includes a game against Texas Tech.

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2. Make The Semifinals Of Big 12 Tournament

Make The Semi-Finals Of Big 12 Tournament
Jim Cowsert - USATODAY Sports

Baylor isn't going to get a bye in the Big 12 tournament, so they're going to need two wins to make the semifinals. Obviously, winning the tournament would give them the automatic bid, but reaching the semifinals would mean avoiding another bad loss on their resume and adding one or two quality wins, which should be enough to put them in the tournament.

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1. Make Free Throws

Make Free Throws
Kevin Jairaj - USATODAY Sports

There are nearly 300 teams in college basketball that shoot a better free throw percentage than the Bears. If they can fix their issues at the line and start making their shots at the charity stripe, they'll get to the NCAA tournament. Baylor has a well-balanced offense; they have an inside presence and they shoot a good percentage from the perimeter, and if they can start making shots when no one is guarding them, they'll win the games they need to win to get an invitation to the Big Dance.