Baylor and Creighton meet in a third-round West Regional game on Sunday in the NCAA Basketball post-season tournament in San Antonio. Baylor, seeded sixth in the region, had a relatively easy time in beating Nebraska on Friday 74-60. Conversely the 3rd-seeded Bluejays were challenged the entire game by Louisiana-Lafayette before finally pulling away to win 76-66. Creighton is favored by 3.5 points.
The Baylor Bears are building an impressive NCAA basketball post-season resume. Under coach Scott Drew, the Bears are now 7-2 in tournament play. They are also peaking at the right time, going 11-2 in their last 13 games this season. Despite a 9-9 record in conference play, the Bears won three games in the Big 12 conference tournament, losing to Iowa State in the finals. As impressive as their win over Nebraska was, Baylor left room for improvement as they move on to play Creighton. Team-wise, the Bears were only 2-13 from the 3-point line, mostly due to a cold game by their 3-point specialist Brady Heslip who was only just 1-7 from the field.
Creighton got a battle from Louisiana-Lafayette for almost 38 minutes on Friday. The Bluejays finally opened up a 7-point lead on the Ragin’ Cajuns on a 3-pointer from Doug McDermott with 2:03 to play and went on to win by ten. The positive sign for Creighton was that they got a win on a day when they did not play their best. “We got away with one” Friday, McDermott said, adding that his team’s experience was the difference down the stretch. The Jays starting lineup is made up of four seniors and a junior. McDermott ended the day with 30 points and 12 rebounds. Doug’s father, Greg McDermott, the Bluejays’ coach was happy with the win. He pointed to all of the crazy things that have already happened in this year’s NCAA basketball tourney and said their mission was to “survive and advance.” Advancing is important to Creighton in this, the last year for Doug McDermott and the three other senior starters. It has been in the third round where the Bluejays have been eliminated the last two years.
The winner of this basketball game will move on to the NCAA West Regional semi-finals next week in Anaheim, and the major statistical categories don’t seem to favor either team. Creighton has the advantage in average points (79.4-75.2) and assists per game (17.7-14.8), while Baylor gets the nod for rebounds (42.0-37.6) and blocks (5.5-1.4). Creighton is a team that can score in whatever way is needed to win the game. It isn’t easy to take the ball inside on the Bears, who have two big guys inside who specialize in blocking shots. Seven-footer Isaiah Austin has 115 and Cory Jefferson has 48. In order to win the Bluejays will probably need to knock down some 3-pointers and loosen up the pressure in the paint, and they have the ammunition to do it. Four Creighton players are hitting over 40 percent from long distance this year, led by Ethan Wragge at .474 and McDermott at .455. Another cold night in 3-point shooting will probably mean another exit in the third round for the Jays. That probably will not happen. Creighton 85, Baylor 73.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky