NCAA tournament team previews: Baylor Bears
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 24-8 (11-7 Big 12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 114.9 (13th)/94.5 (33rd)
Seed: West No. 3
Impact Player: Rico Gathers, junior, forward, 11.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 113.0 offensive rating
The Case For: The Bears were a surprising top team in the Big 12 this season. Before the year began, Baylor was picked to finish in a tie for sixth-place in the league, but ended up finishing in a tie for fourth. Its power lies in the front court, where Gathers and Taurean Prince do most of the damage. Those two players account for more 36% of the Bears' scoring this season.
Baylor also does the one thing well that you need to win games in the NCAA tournament: shoot the three-pointer. Entering the weekend, Baylor was 87th nationally in three-pointers made and 33rd in three-point field goal percentage. Two regulars—Prince and fellow forward Royce O'Neale—shoot better than 40% from long range, with guard Lester Medford shooting just under 40 percent.
The Case Against: For a team that's won 24 games, Baylor really hasn't beaten—or played—anyone of note outside of the Big 12 season. Now, you're thinking: "But the Big 12 is No. 1 RPI conference in America." True. That has raised the Bears' computer numbers greatly, while masking the fact that the average RPI of its nonconference opponents is 134.
The best win? Over Stephen F. Austin, ranked 40th—back on Nov. 24. It went 1-1 in its only neutral-court games, losing to an Illinois team that proved to be quite mediocre. And for its three wins over West Virginia, it was swept by Oklahoma State and split with Kansas State. The Big 12 might have helped elevate this team's play and better prepared it for the NCAA tournament, but it did cover up a few questionable things about the Bears.
SI prediction: Beat Georgia State in the Round of 64, beat BYU in the Round of 32, lose to Arizona in the Sweet 16