Scouting the Bluejays: 3 keys for the Bears in the round of 32

The Baylor team huddles together during No. 3 seed Baylor men’s basketball’s opening round game against No. 14 seed University of California, Santa Barbara Friday in the Ball Arena in Denver. Kenneth Prabhakar | Photo Editor

By Foster Nicholas | Sports Writer

Seeking its second Sweet 16 appearance in three seasons, No. 6 seed Creighton University will look to dethrone No. 3 Baylor men’s basketball Sunday.

CU (22-12) is coming off a 72-63 win over No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Friday in the round of 64 in the Ball Arena in Denver. Through 30 minutes of action, the game could have gone either way, but after clutch 3-point shooting and great rebounding, the Bluejays pulled off the win.

The Bears (23-10) are also coming off a big momentum boost in its 74-56 win against No. 14 seed University of California, Santa Barbara (27-8) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. While the green and gold were able to negate UCSB’s strengths, it will be significantly harder to limit Creighton in the round of 32.

Here are three things Baylor needs to look out for against the Bluejays.

Size could be a problem

Creighton’s back-to-back Big East Player of the Year and 7-foot-1-inch junior center Ryan Kalkbrenner tallied a career-high and team-leading, 31 points in the first round win. In addition to the buckets, Kalkbrenner brought down seven rebounds and racked up three blocks on the defensive side of the ball.

“Well, you don’t face a lot of guys 7-foot-1-inch, 260 [pounds] that have his skill level and his touch,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “Part of his success is because of the players around him. They do a great job getting him the ball. They can shoot it, which spaces the floor.”

On the year, the Creighton big man was one of the most efficient players in the nation. His 71.7% field goal percentage was third in all of Division I, and first in effective field goal percentage at 72.8%. The center will only take high percentage shots and if he doesn’t have the look he likes, he will swing it back out to the perimeter.

“They have to pick their poison, either send two people to guard me and give up an open three to one of these guys who are going to make the shot, or stay on them and play me one-on-one in the post,” Kalkbrenner said.

The Bluejays average 27.3 defensive rebounds per game, which is fourth best in the nation, and the Bears only average 20.4 a game, a bottom-20 mark in Division I basketball. CU doesn’t get many second chance opportunities, but it also does not allow any second chance opportunities for the opponents.

For Baylor to have success against Kalkbrenner and the bigs, it will need to choose one of two options. One, play lockdown defense on the perimeter and trust one-on-one matchups in the post. In other words, allow Kalkbrenner to do what he does best. Or two, challenge Creighton to shoot the three ball and negate Kalkbrenner’s dominance in the post, which brings us to the next key of the game.

Live or die by the 3-pointer

Baylor enters Sunday’s matchup with the 13th most three-pointers made per game in the nation with an average of 9.6. CU also relies on the long range shot to go down, averaging 8.7 made per game.

In Creighton’s first round win, it only shot 3-20 (15%) behind the 3-point line, the second-worst 3-point percentage in an NCAA Tournament win in March Madness history. It’s safe to say the cold shooting from beyond the ark isn’t sustainable, and without the long-range game, the Bluejays become one dimensional.

NC State ran into trouble in the round of 64 because its big men got into foul trouble early. The green and gold will have to keep out of foul trouble in the post, which will result in the easy baskets in the paint also becoming tougher.

CU’s biggest 3-point contributor, senior guard Baylor Scheierman, has made at least one shot from long range in each of his last 44 games played. Sceierman wasted no time continuing the streak on Sunday by scoring the first basket of the game, a top of the court three. The rest of the game for him was a different story. The senior missed his next six 3-point opportunities and stayed quiet until the 2:00 mark in the second half.

The green and gold can shoot the lights out from behind the arc, but they also need to defend at a high level along the perimeter. In its first round win, Baylor held UCSB to only 4-of-16 from the 3-point line.

With a much improved defense on the outside, the Bears will look to force missed 3-pointers and make Creighton beat them inside, a task that will be difficult at high altitude.

Keep it clean

Basketball is a game of runs, most of which are created by great defense, silly turnovers or a mixture of the two. Both Creighton and Baylor have struggled to control the ball at times which forces runs, and labored to force turnovers.

The Bluejays rank second in the nation in personal fouls per game with 13.2. CU rarely fouls and the lack of those has also correlated to limiting forced turnovers. Creighton is a bottom 15 team in the nation in steals per game and instead relies on the inside presence to tally blocks.

Baylor on the other hand, is a middle of the road team in personal fouls and steals, but wrestles to control an inside presence and create blocked shot opportunities. The good news is if the Bears don’t cause self-inflicted wounds the offense will be able to create more runs.

Since the Bluejays struggle with perimeter defense and also rely on their own scoring to win the game, turnovers will be the most critical aspect of the game. Baylor has the luxury of creating its own shots off the dribble, or firing a three of the pass. CU wont have many opportunities for true steals and will be looming to intercept passes. If the green and gold focus more on creating a shot instead of forcing one, it will be hard to stop.

Sunday’s matchup between two evenly matched teams will come down to game planning and execution. Whichever team is able to better execute its style of play will prevail on to the Sweet 16.