Baylor vs. Kentucky
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Running with the top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats is not the way to beat them, so the third-seeded Baylor Bears will need to have a much better Game plan for their Elite Eight matchup on Sunday in the South Regional Final at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The Wildcats (35-2) have been dominant in winning their first three Games of the NCAA Tournament by an average of more than 14 points, but they will be facing maybe the only team that can match up with them athletically in the Bears (30-7) for a trip to the Final Four.
Baylor’s biggest weakness is inconsistency, which the team showed again in letting No. 10 Xavier get back into Friday’s Sweet 16 Game after rushing out to an early 22-4 lead. The Bears allowed the Musketeers to go on a 13-0 run to pull within Four points late in the first half before holding them off in a 75-70 victory. Forwards Quincy Acy and Perry Jones III were simply too much for Xavier inside, combining for 34 points on 15 of 19 shooting from the field and 20 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Kentucky has yet to really show a weakness in the Big Dance and simply overpowered No. 4 Indiana in a 102-90 win on Friday that saw the team make an incredible 35 of 37 free-throw attempts. Unlike past teams coached by John Calipari, these Wildcats know how to finish Games despite having three freshmen in the starting lineup. First-year players Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague only missed one of their combined 22 attempts from the charity stripe, and this could very well be their only season in college before heading to the NBA.
Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist are sure-fire lottery picks at the next level and already projected by some to be the first two players selected overall in June’s NBA draft. Teague has been a bit more inconsistent running the point as he tries to follow in the footsteps of former Kentucky guards John Wall and Brandon Knight in the previous two seasons. Knight was able to get to the Final Four last year as a freshman before bolting for the pros, but both of Teague’s predecessors failed in their goal to play for the national championship.
Acy and Jones III may not be in the same category of pro prospect as sophomores. However, each of them has loads of potential and could use their extra year of experience to help them against the Wildcats despite not making the NCAA Tournament in 2011. Baylor’s disappointing season has fueled the team this year and given the players growing confidence that they can compete with the very best in college basketball.
The trends certainly favor a high-scoring Game even though that style might not be in the best interests of the Bears. The OVER is 6-1 in Baylor’s last seven Games and 4-1 in Kentucky’s past five. Both teams are averaging more than 75 points in their last five Games while giving up more than 70 per Game during that same stretch.