In the second round of the NIT, Virginia Tech will play a team unfamiliar to
most Tech fans: the Baylor Bears. Baylor is part of the Big 12 conference, and
they are making their second consecutive postseason appearance under head coach
Scott Drew. The winner of this matchup will advance to the NIT quarterfinals
against either Auburn or Tulsa.
Baylor has a 21-14 record on the year, and they finished the regular season
5-11 in the Big 12. The Bears have talent in their starting lineup, and they
were picked to finish third in the conference in the preseason after making the
NCAA tournament a year ago. They had a big win over Arizona State out of
conference, and then started Big 12 play with a 3-1 conference record. However,
they won just two more games down the stretch in the regular season.
The Bears did make a run in the postseason, knocking off Nebraska, Kansas and
Texas in the Big 12 Tournament before falling to Missouri in the finals. They
are a very capable basketball team who should have a better record.
That is Baylor’s starting lineup, but not their lineup for most of the game.
Madadou Diene only plays 10 minutes a game, and another 7-footer, junior Josh
Lomers, comes off the bench. Freshman Anthony Jones (6-10, 196) rounds out a
very tall frontcourt for the Bears. However, Diene, Lomers and Jones only
combine to average 4.9 rebounds per game in a combined 31 minutes per game.
The frontcourt is certainly not a strength for the most part, but power
forward Kevin Rogers is a very good player. He has excellent size, and he’s a
solid scorer and rebounder on the inside. The Bears have a number of very good
perimeter players, which we’ll get to momentarily, and with so many good guards
sometimes Rogers gets left out.
Baylor advanced to the Finals of the Big 12 Tournament with Rogers averaging
13 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He had 20 rebounds in the opening round win
over Nebraska. He is a very capable player, and Cheick Diakite seems a likely
candidate to match up with Rogers.
Baylor has a number of very good guards, led by Curtis Jerrells. Jerrells was
a First Team All-Big 12 performer a year ago. He is a left-handed guard who
shoots 37% from three-point range and 78% from the free throw line. Jerrells
also leads the team with 166 assists. He is an excellent all-around offensive
threat. Dorenzo Hudson has been Tech’s best defender of late, so he could
potentially match up against Jerrells.
Tweety Carter and Henry Dugat are two other good guards for Baylor. Carter
was a McDonald’s All-American, the first such recruit in the history of Baylor
basketball. He has the distinction of being the highest scoring high school
basketball player in United States history. He scored 7,457 points in six (yes,
I said six) varsity seasons at Reserve Christian School in Reserve, Lousiana.
Carter is short, quick and a good shooter. He hits 37.8% of his three-point
attempts. The junior guard is the youngest player in Baylor’s starting lineup.
Henry Dugat, the final starting guard, has a 40.5 inch vertical jump. He had a
39% career three-point percentage coming into the season, but he is only
shooting 30.8% this year.
Baylor has perhaps the best Sixth Man in college basketball in sophomore
LaceDarius Dunn (6-4, 201). He was a Freshman All-American last season and a Top
50 recruit coming out of high school. Dunn averages 15.5 points per game coming
off the bench for the Bears. He shoots 38.1% from three-point range, and he
attempted 252 three-pointers on the year (by comparison, A.D. Vassallo shoots
37.5% on 216 attempts).
The Bears don’t have a lot of depth. Jerrells, Rogers and Carter all play at
least 32.5 minutes per game, while Dunn and Dugat average 28.1 and 29.4
respectively. With so many guards on the court at once, Baylor sometimes has a
tendency to settle for jumpers instead of pounding the ball inside to Kevin
Baylor does present some serious matchup problems for the Hokies. Their
height on the inside doesn’t concern me, because the stats indicate that those
frontcourt players (with the exception of Rogers) can’t produce. However, the
fact that they have the capability to put four true guards on the court at the
same time does concern me.
The Hokies would have to match up to those four true guards with Hank Thorns,
Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson and A.D. Vassallo. I think the potential is
there for the Bears to do some damage.
That being said, they went 5-11 this year in the Big 12 for a reason. They
aren’t a particularly disciplined team, at times they have poor shot selection,
they played poor defense in conference play, and they turn the ball over too
much. They aren’t a good team, though they certainly have good players.
Baylor is a tough team to face, because they are capable of exploding on any
given night. They are the only team in the Big 12 with three different players
to score 30 or more points in a conference game this year.
This game will be a daunting challenge for the Hokies, and it should be an
excellent NIT matchup. It features two NCAA tournament caliber teams who just
didn’t get it done in the regular season, for various reasons. If Tech wins,
they’ll face either Auburn or Tulsa, who play at 8pm on Friday night.