HOW SWEET IT IS! Baylor advances to the Sweet 16; Holds off USC, 82-78
No. 3 seed Baylor will seek its fourth trip to the Sweet 16 since 2010 when it plays the No. 11 seed Trojans Sunday at the BOK Center in Tulsa (6:45 p.m. TruTV). A win would send them to Madison Square Garden in NYC to face the winner of South Carolina and Duke this coming Friday.
Baylor's other appearances were in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Baylor used a 53-point second half to run away from No. 14 New Mexico State, 91-73, in the first round on Friday.
Baylor is 3-0 in the second round all-time under Scott Drew. The Trojans are coming winning their first NCAA tournament games against Providence and SMU. USC rallied from double digits in each of those games to win.
"When you have a few wins like that, it definitely sparks a belief in your team,'' Baylor guard Jake Lindsey said. "It shows they have some resilience and some fight."
The Bears and Kansas are trying to join fellow Big 12 member West Virginia in the Sweet 16.
Here are 5 Things to Watch
>Must See TV in the Block:This game is going to start there between Baylor's 6-10 junior playmaker Jonathan Motley and USC's sophomore 6-10 sensation Bennie Boatright. They are somewhat mirror images of each other. Both are explosive around the rim and can step out and hit the 3-pointer. Boatright missed two months of this season with a knee injury. But he's healthy. Motley is averaging 17 points per game. Boatright is at 14.
>Zone vs Zone: Baylor actually struggled with its zone against New Mexico State on Friday and wound up coming out of it and went to its man defense. I still expect them to deploy it against the Trojans. USC has been playing a very effective 2-3 zone that's been a big part of its NCAA tournament wins. It pretty much fueled their comeback against USC. Given how much success Baylor had in the paint Friday, you would think the Trojans are going to make them beat them from deep.
>It's long gone: Remember that 4-game absence (three via suspension) for junior guard Al Freeman? Well, it's pretty safe to say that he became a better player for the time that he sat. Freeman has been dynamite in the Big 12 and NCAA tournament. He followed up his 16-point effort against Kansas State with a season-high 21-point outing against New Mexico State in which he converted all three 3-point attempts. Since his return on Feb. 21 against Oklahoma (six games), Freeman is 24-44 (.545) overall and even better from beyond the arc at 13-21 (.619). His resurgence could not have come at a better time.
>More in the Block: You can pretty much be assured that Baylor 7-0 center Jo Luil-Acuil is going to be matched up against USC's 6-11 sophomore Chimezie Metu. Metu is pretty much around the basket at all times. Now, because Acuil has the ability to step out and hit the 3-pointer, that could be a little cat-and-mouse between Scott Drew and USC coach Andy Enfield. Can Baylor draw Metu away from the basket? The are really close statistically. Metu is at 14.5, 7.9 and 1.6 blocks per game. Acuil is 9.4, 6.9 and 2.6 blocks per game.
>Manu means value:He played 31 minutes and didn't seem to be the worse for wear. That's a good sign for Baylor point guard Manu Lecomte. Sprained ankles are tricky and you can only do so much with them before they heal on their own. But besides the minutes, the best thing that Lecomte did was run the offense efficiently with three dimes and only one turnover. Now, we'll have to see if the 48 hours between games and probably lots of rehab, ice, etc in between can help the lift in his shot. No disrespect to Jake Lindsey, but this team is better when Lecomte is running the offense and Lindsey is playing between 18-23 minutes.
Baylor is healthy. The deep bench is once again a factor. Now Drew played it a little short against Kansas State but was liberal with it Friday. We'll see how much he wants to throw at the Trojans Sunday evening. USC's point guard Jordan McLaughlin struggled against SMU with only five points and missing all five 3-point attempts. But junior guard Elijah Stewart is the sharp shooter from deep. He hit the game-winning shot against SMU Friday.