Baylor’s head-scratching season kept rolling along on Saturday as the Bears upset #16 Texas A&M in College Station.
Just like with Nebraska the week before, the A&M win may eventually lose some luster and not carry the weight it looks like it will right now. But regardless of whether it was a resume-padder or not, the Bears now have five conference wins and are above .500 in league play. They also have as good a chance as any to emerge from the Big 12 pile of mediocrity and grab a bye in the conference tournament.
I’m not sure if you’d necessarily say that Perry Jones finally “broke out” on Saturday, but Baylor has to be encouraged by what they got from the talented freshman. It wasn’t just that Jones scored a career-high 27 points, but it was the way he did it that should have Baylor fans excited.
After LaceDarius Dunn had scored 14 first-half points, Dash Harris and others did a good job either denying him the ball or forcing him into bad shots during the second half and overtime. While this was going on, the Bears were able to turn to Jones, who took over the offense and hit a number of shots down the stretch.
His free throw shooting (9-9 on Saturday) makes him very tough to guard because of his ability to face up defenders and get to the basket. I know it’s not always that simple, but if Jones plays like he did Saturday and forces teams to double him it should open up easier shots for Dunn.
The Bears’ also did a good job defensively by holding A&M to 42.9 percent from the field, down five points from their season average.
So where do the Bears’ NCAA chances sit right now? At the moment I’d say they aren’t in, especially after their loss to Oklahoma during the week. But Baylor could benefit from the general nature of the current college basketball landscape (though that could be said for many teams). The Big 12 isn’t as good as originally thought and neither is the Big Ten. The ACC, Pac-10 and SEC are also way down. The bids will have to come from somewhere.
It will be important for Baylor to win one of two games they have against Texas to attract some national attention. That certainly looks unrealistic considering how inconsistent Baylor has been and how well Texas is currently playing. But the Bears get the Longhorns at home in the regular season finale, and a lot could change between now and then.
I think the Bears would need to go 9-7 in conference to have a chance, and even then they might have to win a game in the conference tournament. There certainly are opportunities for four more wins on their schedule (Nebraska, @Ok-State, A&M, Texas Tech) but there are no sure things with the Bears, as the OU loss and a loss to I-State suggest.