Game Info: BYU vs. Baylor, 4pm PT, Tuesday, April 2nd. Madison Square Garden
TV Info: ESPN 2
Madison Square Garden is often regarded as the Mecca of basketball arenas. The Cougars of BYU will be apart of the history this Tuesday night, when they take on the Baylor Bears in an NIT semifinal game.
The Bears are a two seed, who have defeated Long Beach State, Arizona State, and Providence to reach the semifinals. They have outscored their opponents by an average of about 19 points in the duration of the tournament. The bears have a ton of talent, and it has been on full display during the NIT.
AP Poll: Unranked
76.5 PPG (18th in Nation)
38.3 RPG (29th in Nation)
15.6 APG (21st in Nation)
45.8% FG (56th in Nation)
Leading Scorer: Tyler Haws (21.6 PPG)
Leading rebounder: Brandon Davies (8.1 RPG)
Leading passer: Matt Carlino (4.7 APG)
AP Poll: Unranked
74.4 PPG (31st in nation)
37.7 RPG (41st in nation)
15.0 APG (33rd in nation)
45.0 % FG (82nd in nation)
Leading scorer: Pierre Jackson (19.7 PPG)
Leading rebounder: Isaiah Austin (8.3 RPG)
Leading Passer: Pierre Jackson (6.9 APG)
Baylor is an interesting team, because you never quite know what your going to get with them. In two games against Kansas, the Bears lost the first one by 17 and won the second by 23. However, they generally beat the teams they are supposed to; all of there Big-12 losses, other than Texas, were to teams that were in the NCAA tournament. Earlier in the season, Baylor played BYU in Waco and beat the Cougars by 15. Baylor was able to take control of the game when they went on a 21-2 run to end the first half in a span of about 7 minutes. Before that, Baylor was down by as many as 11 points.
Clearly, Baylor has a dynamic offense. The player that makes it run is senior guard Pierre Jackson. Jackson is lightning quick and shoots at an extremely high level. He is also fantastic at getting his teammates involved, as he averages just under 7 assists per game. In Baylor and BYU’s matchup earlier in the season, Jackson was one assist short of a double-double with 16 points and 9 assists. If BYU plans on winning this game, they will need to slow down Jackson.
The most interesting head-to-head player match up is Cory Jefferson against Brandon Davies. The two forwards have completely contrasting styles. Davies is more of a finesse player who uses his craftiness to get buckets. Jefferson, on the other hand, uses his strength to power through defenders and get to the rim. It will be intriguing to see how Davies fares against Jefferson, who is on a completely different physical level than he is.
If BYU can shoot well, there is no question that they can win this game. Otherwise, Baylor has too much firepower that BYU just cannot match. I expect Tyler Haws to be badgered all game long by Baylors guards, and Jefferson is a tough match up for Davies. However, if the Cougars get a shooting performance from Brock Zylstra like they in their quarterfinal game against Southern Miss, there is a strong possibility that BYU could advance to the finals.