A Texas-Sized Signature Win
For all the critics and cynics looking for that one signature win of the Scott Drew era, look no further than No. 24 Baylor's 80-77 Texas-sized upset win at No. 6 Texas Saturday night in Austin. From Tweety Carter's interview with Andy Katz on ESPN College Basketball Final to the ESPNews Highlight of the Night, Baylor's win has resonated across college hoops as well as the state of Texas:
Last night saw a senior leader step up as a Lilliputian among a court of Gullivers (we think the analogous statement is rather apropos, considering he was the smallest player on the court at any given time) and take over when his team needed him most. Tweety Carter. Carter posted his third consecutive 20-point game for the second time this season.
We also saw the leader in waiting, a freshman grow up in a big way Saturday night when A.J. Walton, a career 47 percent free throw shooter in his first 19 games, went 6-of-7 from the FT line at Texas...including three clutch FTs in the final 17 seconds of OT to seal Baylor's fate.
The waning seconds of regulation saw Ekpe Udoh's 3-point attempt fall into the hands of Anthony Jones who put the ball in the basket before time expired to force overtime. Udoh was 0-of-11 from the floor in regulation and made Baylor's first three FGs in OT before fouling out. Ant finished with a career-high 11 rebounds.
So what exactly is the magnitude of arguably the most significant win of the Drew era?
Baylor, now 16-4 and 3-3 in Big 12 play, will likely move up in the Top 25 poll come Monday afternoon and survived a brutal three-game conference stretch that featured a near-upset win in Lawrence, a heartbreaking home loss to Kansas State and a program-defining win at Texas.
The Bears concluded the month of January with six wins - the most January victories since Gene Iba's Bears won six during its 1987 NIT season.
42 days until Selection Sunday.
Somewhere Between Waco and Austin
We're somewhere between Waco and Austin on our way to the Frank Erwin Center for this afternoon's Big 12 Conference rivalry showdown between No. 24 Baylor and No. 6 Texas. Saturday's meeting will be the first with both teams ranked in the Top 25. Last year, Baylor snapped its 24-game losing streak to the Longhorns, 76-70, in the 2009 Big 12 Championship semifinals in OKC.
Besides the fact that Saturday will be the 232nd series meeting - the longest-running series for either schools - the two schools could meet again in the postseason like they did in 2009...At least that's the latest Drive for 65 bracket projection by Rivals.com: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 10 Xavier...No. 2 Texas vs. No. 15 Sam Houston State.
The series seems to always be dominated by streaks and notes. Saturday won't be any different as the Bears will look to snap their 11-game losing streak in Austin.
During Tuesday's loss to No. 11 Kansas State, senior point guard Tweety Carter put the Bears on his back, scoring a team-high 23 points, while the Wildcats held LaceDarius Dunn to nine points on 3-of-14 shooting. Carter proved his one of the best - and most underrated - point guards in the Big 12 and the nation with his performances this season. Tweety leads the Big 12 in assists per game, ranking third nationally. As Chuck Carlton said in this morning's The Dallas Morning News, Carter is now scoring points as a leader.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: TEXAS
A ROAD WIN IN THE BIG 12 IS HARD TO FIND
A BAYLOR WIN WOULD...
If you can't make it down to Austin for today's game, you can watch it live on the Big 12 Network, beginning at 3:01 p.m. CST. Or you can turn down the sound on your TV and turn up your radio to 1660 ESPN with 'The Voice of the Bears' John Morris and color analyst Pat Nunley.
Udoh Transforming Baylor's Identity
Baylor junior power forward Ekpe Udoh has transformed Baylor's identity this season as 'The Nightmare', leading the Big 12 in blocked shots and rebounding. Did you know his middle name is Friday (hence the nickname and uniform number, 13)? And that it's also his father's first name, but he goes by his midle name, Samuel, which is his father's first name?
Well if you didn't know any of the above, then you'll enjoy the excellent story written by ESPNDallas.com's Jeff Caplan, who visited with Udoh earlier this week.
After taking a few well-deserved days to clear our mind following Tuesday's albeit tough 76-74 loss at the hands of No. 11 Kansas State, we've shouted "Serenity Now!" a few times and returned refreshed. We won't go as far as to say that it was a crushing loss...All losses are tough to swallow, but Tuesday's loss definitely stings. That's the beauty of a 16-game Big 12 Conference schedule - you forget about the last game (win or lose) and focus on the next one. And that next one is a big one against No. 6 Texas.
We'll be brief, but if you catch yourself still down after the K-State loss, then you should read page four of our latest game notes, highlighting Where We've Been and Where We're Going...
ESPNDALLAS.COM: BAYLOR'S UDOH A 'NIGHTMARE'
BEARS TO WATCH FORMER BEAR JERRELLS IN D-LEAGUE ACTION FRIDAY
Want more on CJ? Check out Alex Kennedy's article charting his progress in the D-League on HoopsWorld.com.
MORE BRACKET RACKET, COURTESY OF THEHOOPSREPORT.COM
BAYLOR NO. 24 IN LATEST FOXSPORTS.COM POWER RANKINGS
The Nightmare Has a Following
The warning labels read:
CAUTION: Do not wear as a protective mask
WARNING: THIS IS NOT A PROTECTIVE MASK, To be used as toy only
This Product is not Associated with New Line Productions or the Friday the 13th Films and should be sold as a horror item.
Did we mention it also glows in the dark? For the last three home games, members of The Bear Pit have been outfitted with plastic hockey masks in homage to Baylor's Ekpe Udoh, who is nicknamed "The Nightmare". So far, Udoh has lived up to the billing, averaging 14.0 points, 10.9 rebounds and terrorizing opposing teams with 4.3 blocks per game. The Edmond, Okla., native, who dubbed himself The Nightmare during one particular practice last season when he dominated Baylor's starters, has quickly emerged as one of the nation's elite. And he's still "under the radar" to some...In fact, ESPN's Hubert Davis, who has become Baylor's newest #1 fan over the last few weeks, said Udoh is the nation's "best kept secret".
After Tuesday's eight-point, 14-rebound, two-block performance in a difficult 76-74 loss to No. 11 Kansas State, The Nightmare leads the Big 12 in rebounding (10.9) and blocked shots (4.3). He also ranks among the league's top 20 leaders in assists. The big man passes, too. To the tune of 52 dimes.
It's a rather intimidating site to see 100-plus students in The Bear Pit, jumping up and down, donning glow-in-the-dark Nightmare masks, don't you think? You ask Ekpe about it and he takes in stride. When he saw the masks in The Bear Pit for the Oklahoma State game Jan. 16, he thanked them for the gesture. He may be #13 on the court and The Nightmare to opponents, but he's just Ekpe to us.
If History is Any Indication
Then you'd know that tonight's monumental Big 12 contest is the first matchup of two Top 25 men's basketball teams in Ferrell Center history. Pretty impressive, no? K-State experienced the same thing when the then-No. 9 Wildcats hosted No. 1 Texas in Bramlage Coliseum. With that said, it's no secret that tonight is a big game. Of course, every Big 12 game is big. That's what happens when you play in the nation's best conference.
Baylor (15-3, 2-2) puts its Ferrell Center-record 11-game home winning streak on the line tonight when it hosts the 11th-ranked Kansas State Wildcats. If you remember from last season, Baylor tied the series at 10-10 behind LaceDarius Dunn's season-high 33 points for an 83-65 win in Manhattan. The Bears, which were 15-3 at this point last season after an 18-point road win at K-State, are looking for their first 3-0 home start in the Big 12 since the 1997-98 season.
On top of that, the home team has won three of the last four series meetings (save Baylor's road win at K-State) and the Big 12 is 128-8 (.941) at home this season.
Perhaps the most impressive of all these stats...Dunn is averaging 24.5 points in two career games against K-State and 21.8 points in four career games vs. Kansas. Speaking of Lace, if you read this morning's article on Baylor's 3-point specialist in this morning's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, then you'll love Dwain Price's follow-up on his blog about Lace's increased assists total.
RIVALS.COM POWER RANKINGS
PACK THE FERRELL CENTER
PREVIEWING KANSAS STATE
BAYLOR MORE SUCCESSFUL AGAINST BIG 12 NORTH
BAYLOR IN BIG 12 HOME GAMES
WHEN LACE FACES A KANSAS TEAM, HE'S IN RANGE
BAYLOR AGAINST NATIONALLY RANKED TEAMS
If you can't make it to the game...then be sure to turn down the sound on your TV and turn up the volume on 1660 ESPN with The Voice of the Baylor Bears, John Morris, and color commentator extraordinaire, Pat Nunley, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Be loud, be proud. We have a feeling tonight's going to be a good night...
Monday Evening Bracketology
Anyone who was unaware of Scott Drew's 2009-10 version of the Baylor Bears before last Wednesday's near-upset of No. 3 Kansas is unaware no more. On the same day the Bears moved up one spot to No. 24 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll, resident bracketologists nationwide are starting to take note of the 15-3 Baylor squad that has won 11 straight games in the Ferrell Center.
In what has become our Monday ritual, we'll take a look at our four favorite bracketologists and see where they predict Baylor will play in March. Shall we continue? ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Baylor No. 5 in his latest bracket (No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 Florida State in last week's bracket) in the East Regional against this year's Cinderella-like story, No. 12 William & Mary, in Spokane, Wash. William & Mary is one of Lunardi's Last Four In, along with Cincinnati, Richmond and Baylor opponent Arizona State. The Baylor/William & Mary winner would presumably face the winner of No. 4 Temple/No. 13 Oakland (projected Summit League automatic bid).
The fine bracketologists at Bracketography.com bumped Baylor from a No. 7 seed in last week's projection to a No. 6 seed this week against Ivy League favorite, No. 11 seed Cornell in Jacksonville. If you remember, the Big Red gave Kansas big fits in Lawrence a few weeks ago before the Jayhawks pulled away late, 71-66. Bracketography.com has the Baylor/Cornell game paired with No. 3 Pittsburgh and the Fighting Larry Littles, No. 14 Louisiana Tech. All three possible opponents = equal very good.
Like Lunardi, CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm also likes a Baylor-William & Mary matchup as he projects Baylor as a No. 7 seed in...wait for it...Jacksonville, Fla. We're beginning to like the sound of that. As it stands today, the 7-10 winner would presumably face No. 2 Duke, who would play No. 15 Morgan State in the opening round in Palm's latest prognostication.
Our fourth bracketology segment features Baylor as a No. 8 seed against No. 9 Florida State in Milwaukee, Wis., according to CNNSI.com's Andy Glockner. The winner? Gets No. 1 Kentucky.
RPI AND NATIONAL RANKINGS
Speaking of national rankings...The Bears still rank in the top 10 of six major statistical categories in the latest NCAA Division I stat rankings released Monday afternoon. Baylor ranks nationally: 2nd in field goal percentage defense, 3rd in rebounding margin, 4th in blocked shots per game, 5th in field goal percentage, 10th in scoring margin and 10th in 3FG percentage. Additionally, LaceDarius Dunn ranks second nationally in 3-point field goals made per game, while Tweety Carter ranks third in assists per game and 21st in assist-to-turnover ratio.
An Elusive Record No More
Before Saturday's 71-45 win over UMass, that 11th consecutive Ferrell Center victory was as elusive as finding evidence of Bigfoot. Baylor had won 10 straight games at the "Golden Dome" five times, but the previous four fell short of history. The 26-point non-conference win against the Minutemen was Baylor's 13th out-of-conference victory this season, the most since winning 14 during the historic 1945-46 season.
But, perhaps more impressive than the Ferrell Center win streak and non-conference wins...Baylor has now posted four consecutive 15-wins seasons for just the second time in program history (1967-1971). The Bears now have 75 win over the last three-plus seasons, establishing a school record for the most wins during a four-year stretch. Baylor's win Saturday surpassed the 74 wins from 1945-49.
UMass did accomplish something that no Baylor opponent has done since the 2009 NIT Championship title game in New York City. The Minutemen outrebounded the Bears, also becoming the first opponent in 25 games to grab 40+ rebounds. Baylor has outrebounded its opponents in 17 of 18 games this season, while only doing it 16 times last season.
SATURDAY'S UMASS LEFTOVERS
Six Degrees of Game Day Separation
If you remember back in last August when we previewed the UMass game, we mentioned one of our favorite trivia games, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which is based on the small world phenomenon concept. While not an exact science, that general concept can be loosely applied to the Baylor-UMass connection. Here's a refresher course:
Even five months later, we are still one degree short...Obviously, Saturday's game will not be short-changed when it comes to story lines.
For those of you that think it is rather odd to play a non-conference game in the middle of Big 12 play, it's more common than you realize. From our count, there are at least four out-of-conference games nationwide today, including two in the Big 12. Entering Saturday's seven-game slate, the Big 12 is 123-6 (.953) at home this season, the best home record of any conference in the nation.
Baylor is on the cusp of two historical marks...A Baylor win Saturday would be its 11th consecutive home win, establishing a Ferrell Center record. A win would also give Baylor 75 victories over the last three-plus seasons - the most victories over a four-year period in school history. It would also be Baylor's 13th non-conference win this season - the most non-conference wins the 1945-46 season (14).
BAYLOR AGAINST THE ATLANTIC 10
NO BLOCKS FOR YOU
OPPONENTS STRUGGLING AGAINST BAYLOR
DREW'S NON-CONFERENCE SUCCESS
Before we go...Do you remember where you were Jan. 23, 2008? Two years ago to the day Saturday was one of the greatest games in Baylor basketball history as Curtis Jerrells scored a career-high 36 points, including 11 in the fifth overtime, to lead No. 25 Baylor to a 116-110 win over No. 18 Texas A&M in College Station. Three free throws by Jerrells gave Baylor a 106-103 lead in the fifth overtime. Dominique Kirk got A&M within a point with a layup on the next possession. Jerrells pushed the lead back to 3 with his steal and layup with about a minute left. Aaron Bruce added a pair of free throws before a layup by Bryan Davis made it 110-107 with less than 30 seconds remaining. Jerrells added four more free throws and LaceDarius Dunn chipped in a pair to ensure the win. Davis, who led A&M with a career-high 30 points, made a layup with nine seconds left in the fourth overtime to knot it at 99 all and send it to the fifth extra period. Dunn scored five points in the first half of quadruple overtime to give Baylor a 97-94 lead with about three minutes to go. Davis made two free throws to get A&M within one before a layup by Tweety Carter made it 99-96 with about a minute left. Jerrells scored six points in the last 1:01 of triple overtime, including the tying layup with 10 seconds left to leave it at 90-all and force the fourth overtime. Kevin Rogers' layup with 1:31 remaining cut A&M's lead to 87-84 and he fouled out less than 30 seconds later, the fourth Bear to foul out. In all five Baylor players fouled out. Rogers finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
If you can't watch the game, be sure to tune into 1660 ESPN with The Voice of the Baylor Bears John Morris and color analyst extraordinaire Pat Nunley. Plus, you can log onto www.BaylorBears.com and follow all the action and get exclusive commentary on our live in-game blog.
ESPN's Hubert Davis: "The Big 12 Has Four Teams Capable of Making the Final Four"
You can't buy that kind of publicity. For those of you that watched No. 25 Baylor's upset bid of No. 3 Kansas fall short Wednesday night, you know that Ron Franklin and Hubert Davis were very (very, very, very) complimentary of the Bears. Towards the end of Wednesday's ESPN2 telecast, Davis, who played 12 seasons with six NBA teams, went as far to say that the Big 12 "now has four teams capable of making the Final Four" - Texas, Kansas, Kansas State and the Baylor Bears.
These aren't your 2007-08 Baylor Bears...or your 2008-09 version either. Baylor was faced with a monumental task and needed a Herculean effort to accomplish it. Well...when we hit the under-four media timeout with 3:13 remaining in regulation and the game tied at 65 all, it seemed that Baylor was on the cusp of ending Kansas' 52-game home court winning streak. The Bears Heeded (the Phog) and nearly succeeded. Of course, winning on the road would have been huge and there are no such things as a "moral" victory. But, it's safe to say that the national audience (as well as the 16,300 in attendance) took note of Scott Drew's team. At the end of the night, turnovers played a crucial part in Baylor's six-point loss. In each of Baylor's last two Big 12 losses - both on the road - Baylor is minus-13 in the turnover column. MINUS 13.
Take away a turnover here and force an extra turnover there and the game is quite possibly closer than six points and maybe even tilted in Baylor's favor. Baylor committed a season-high tying 20 turnovers - and still had No. 3 Kansas on the ropes entire the game's final 193 seconds. After last night's game, the Bears still remain the Big 12 team with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (-2.59). The Bears have evolved from a four-guard lineup from the last few seasons to a two-guard, three-forward lineup. In layman's terms: LaceDarius Dunn has been a four-guard his first two seasons and is now the two-guard. Dunn went from being one of the tallest players on Baylor's squad last season to one of the shortest this season.
We know the Bears don't force a lot of turnovers. Why? Because they force their opponents to play over their length. Translation: the 6-foot-10 Anthony Jones vs. a 5-foot-9 guard like Oklahoma State's Keiton Page.
Even though Baylor didn't end Kansas' home winning streak, the Bears did become the first team to shoot 50 percent or better against the Jayhawks in 92 games (Louisiana-Monroe was the last team do it in the 2007-08 season opener). And that was against the nation's second-best defense (in terms of field goal percentage). The nation's third-best - Baylor - held Kansas under 44 percent shooting.
Baylor outshot (52.1 percent to 43.5) and outrebounded (34 to 29) the Jayhawks. The Bears have now outrebounded all 17 opponents this season - BU outrebounded only 16 of its opponents in 39 games last season.
Kansas did a good job of neutralizing Ekpe Udoh, who has emerged this season as a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate, holding the Edmond, Okla., native to a season-low four rebounds. "The Nightmare" sill reached double figures, although, we proclaim that he'd exchange his 10 points for a win in Allen Fieldhouse.
Udoh's buddy in the post, Quincy Acy, the leader of Baylor's Kangaroos in Basketball Shoes, played well, scoring 10 points and grabbing a season-high nine boards. Acy was everywhere.
Baylor got 44 of its 75 points from its Louisiana backcourt duo of Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn. Carter proved that he can play in primetime, meeting his season average with seven assists. He can even shoot a three or two, as well. As far as Dunn, who scored a team-high 27 points, we'll let Kansas head coach Bill Self tell you about his game:
"LaceDarius (Dunn) made some hard shots...(He) is probably about as good an offensive player as there is in the country as far as just being able to score."
Dunn has scored 20-plus points in four consecutive games - the first BU player to do so since Curtis Jerrells did it during the 2006-07 season. Carter posted three straight 20-point games earlier this season. Baylor Backcourt = 35.2 points per game this season.
Lace was firing on all cylinders, connecting on five treys, including a few "are you serious?" triples. Kansas' best defender, Brady Morningstar, shadowed Dunn all night and frustrated him a little, too, forcing him into a team-high five turnovers. But Dunn still managed to hit shot after shot after shot. Lawrence Journal-World's Asher Fusco referred to it as "LaceOffense". Lace leads the Big 12 with 25.8 points per game in four conference games and ranks ninth in the league with 7.8 boards per conference contest. And his 3-point shooting? Does 20-of-35 (57.1 percent) qualify for EN FUEGO or unconscious status? Dunn's 20 triples lead the Big 12 in conference-only games....by 10 treys.
At the end of the day, Baylor gained a tremendous amount of respect (as evident by the deserving ovation it received when exiting the court postgame). For those that didn't watch the game and only see the final score, they will assume that Kansas won another game. But the Bears frustrated Kansas with their zone defense, altering shots, clogging passing lanes and making tough shots.
The Big 12 is now 123-6 at home this season. Road games are still at a premium, which makes home court advantage even more important. And despite the loss at Allen Fieldhouse, the Bears were fearless, composed and not overwhelmed by the history and aura.
So how good is Baylor this season? At 14-3, the Bears have been billed by some as "half the hype and twice as good (than last season)". Either way, Rivals.com's Jason King wrote an amazing article about the Bears' efforts from last night and has bumped BU to No. 4 in his latest Big 12 power rankings.
Baylor has already faced No. 3 Kansas. After briefly stepping out of conference to face UMass Saturday, the Bears then face soon-to-be top-five Kansas State and Texas. Three top five teams in 10 days. If Wednesday is an indication of what to expect in the coming days, then the Bears are going to be just fine.
Miniature Golf and a History Lesson in National Rankings
The highlight of our morning was an impromptu tour of historic Allen Fieldhouse from Kansas men's hoops media relations director Chris Theisen. You can feel the history as you walk down the newly renovated halls. The highlight of our afternoon? Miniature golf. Yes, the Holidome in Lawrence, Kan., is fully equipped with a nine-holf miniature golf course. We played 37 holes with Inside Baylor Sports' Robert Shiekh (we needed a playoff hole to determine a winner). Unfortunately, we fell short to Shiekh, but to our credit, it was a whiffle ball, not a real golf ball.
Moving on from our midday shenanigans, Baylor is facing its first nationally ranked opponent tonight in No. 3 Kansas. Baylor has four wins over nationally ranked foes under head coach Scott Drew - two of the four coming against Kansas and Kansas State. Baylor's last win over a ranked team? March 12, 2009, vs. Kansas.
In the program's 104-year history, the Bears have defeated only one team ranked in the top three nationally...turn back the clock to Feb. 10, 1990, when the Bears upset No. 3 Arkansas, 82-77, in the Ferrell Center.
Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog
Legend has it that the spirit of legendary Kansas head coach Dr. Forrest 'Phog' Allen haunts Jayhawks opponents in his namesake, Allen Fieldhouse. Thus, opponents are warned via a banner that hangs in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters: "Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the Phog!" As Waco Tribune-Herald writer John Werner wrote in his article this morning, despite the slew of banners hanging in one of the legendary college basketball venues in the country and Kansas owning a nation's best 52 straight home wins, No. 25 Baylor doesn't expect to be shaking in its sneakers when it faces No. 3 Kansas tonight.
On top of that, the Bears (14-2, 2-1) are faced with the obvious: 95 percent of road teams have not won on a Big 12 home court this season. The Big 12 is 120-6 at home this season. The good news: five of those six losses have come in Big 12 play.ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla offers his formula to winning on the road in his latest ESPN.com blog.
If the Bears wanted any more motivation for tonight, they are 0-8 lifetime at Allen Fieldhouse. Tonight marks the 15th consecutive series meeting in which Kansas is ranked and its eighth when ranked in the top 10. It will be the first time Baylor faces Kansas as a Top 25 team.
The most anticipated matchup tonight will look past the top 25 programs on the court. The real matchup will be in the paint between 2009 honorable mention AP All-American Cole Aldrich and newly annointed National Player of the Year candidate Ekpe Udoh. Tonight's game could catapult Udoh further into the national spotlight if he continues to average his gaudy numbers: 14.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.4 blocks. He definitely has the attention of several Big 12 writers...Monday, Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald gave readers a lesson in the pronunciation of Ekpe Udoh. Wednesday morning, Chuck Carlton's feature story on Udoh was on the sports front page of The Dallas Morning News. In similar fashion to Matthew Driscoll at North Florida, Udoh is winning the attention of writers nationwide, one at a time.
Two years ago in Lawrence, freshman LaceDarius Dunn scored 23 points in just 20 minutes in a Baylor 100-90 loss to eventual national champion Kansas. The Bears' 90 points were the most by a KU opponent in the Bill Self era. Last season, the Bears stunned the top-seeded Jayhawks in Oklahoma City as Dunn scored 24.
With history not tilting in Baylor's favor, the Bears look to snap Kansas' 52-game home court winning streak and become just the seventh team this season to beat a Big 12 team at home. Moments like these make great teams. Just look at last season's memorable postseason run...The best thing that happened to Baylor in 2008-09? Playing nine postseason games.
Another matchup tonight will be between the two smallest guys on the court, Baylor's Tweety Carter and Kansas' Sherron Collins. Carter leads the Big 12 in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, while ranking second nationally in dimes.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: NO. 3 KANSAS
A ROAD WIN IN THE BIG 12 IS HARD TO FIND
ANOTHER MILESTONE ON THE HORIZON
BATTLE OF 1 VS. 2
WHEN LACE ENTERS KANSAS, HE'S IN RANGE
Wednesday also features the national leader (Kansas) and the third-best team (Baylor) in field goal percentage defense. Should make for an intriguing game in front of national ESPN2 audience at 8 p.m. CST. One of our all-time favorites, Ron Franklin, will call the play by play, alongside color analyst Hubert Davis. Don't forget to turn down the sound on your TV and tune into 1660 ESPN with The Voice of the Baylor Bears John Morris and the man that needs no introduction, color analyst Pat Nunley.
Retro Rewind: Revisiting Baylor's 2001 Upset of Kansas
Three games into Baylor's Big 12 schedule and we've already hit a pivotal stretch of the season. The 25th-ranked Bears (14-2, 2-1) are faced with a four-game stretch - Jan. 20 at No. 3 Kansas, Jan. 23 vs. UMass, Jan. 26 vs. No. 9 Kansas State and Jan. 30 at current No. 1 Texas - that will make no team envious. UMass might as well count as a conference game because it carries a large amount of importance - at this stage of the season, winning is everything and nothing else matters.
It is worth noting that Baylor beat each of its next three Big 12 teams at some point last season. Granted, Kansas and Texas both fell victim to the rejuvenated Bears during their amazing run to the 2009 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship title game in OKC.
And Kansas State? Well, LaceDarius Dunn remembers that game vividly to the tune of a season-high 33 points and tying a school record with nine treys.
However, two of the biggest wins in program history have come against the Kansas Jayhawks...
Last season, the Bears knocked off the top-seeded Jayhawks in Oklahoma City to advance to the Big 12 Championship semifinals against Texas and snapped an eight-game losing streak to Kansas...Dunn's last game against Kansas was pretty memorable, too...24 points, including six triples. That was only Baylor's second win in the series with Kansas. The first? Before Baylor fans were entertained by everything dunking that is the repertoire of Quincy Acy, Terry Black was BU's original Dunking Machine. In 2001, before a national ESPN2 audience, the Bears stunned No. 6 Kansas, 85-77, in the Ferrell Center. Fans and students rushed the court in exuberance of Baylor's first win against KU. Black and Wendell Greenleaf posted a pair of 20-point performances and led the Bears to a 25-point halftime lead.
RELIVE 2001 ON ESPN CLASSIC WEDNESDAY
UDON DEBUTS ON GOODMAN'S PLAYER OF THE YEAR RACE
Udoh, Dunn and Carter: May Not Sound Like a Law Firm...
But it does make for an intimidating trio. All three are ranked in the top five nationally in at least one category. Entering Wednesday's Top 25 showdown at The Phog, Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., Baylor is ranked in the top 10 of five major statistical categories released by the NCAA Tuesday afternoon - rebounding margin (1st), field goal percentage defense (3rd), blocked shots per game (5th), field goal percentage (7th) and scoring margin (9th). On top of that, the Bears also rank 14th in both 3-point field goal percentage. How does that translate to this season's success through 16 games?
At the end of the 2008-09 season, Baylor was 220th nationally in scoring defense. This season, the Bears rank 53rd. Baylor's field goal percentage defense has improved exponentially, jumping from 161st to third...However, the most drastic improvement has been rebounding margin; the Bears went from 183rd in the nation at -0.2 (that's a negative rebounding margin) to the nation's leader at 11.4.
After finally playing in 75 percent of Baylor's games this season...senior point guard Tweety Carter leads the Big 12 in assists (7.00) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.71). The Reserve, La., native also ranks second in the nation behind Siena's Ronald Moore (8.3). Carter ranks ahead of such players as John Wall (Kentucky), Larry Drew II (North Carolina) and Jon Scheyer (Duke). Tweety is also 19th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio...Scheyer leads the nation at 4.12. Carter is quietly having his best season thus far and is quickly becoming one of the Big 12's best point guards. Carter is ranked 15th nationally in Rivals.com's latest Position Power Rankings. CollegeChalkTalk.com's George Rodecker also thinks highly of Tweety, who was featured in his 'Under the Radar' section today on Roadies' Road Rants:
"As a team, the 14-2 Baylor Bears play under the radar in the rankings-rich Big 12 as Texas, Kansas and Kansas State seem to get all the focus. However, the Bears are doing quite nicely thank you and a huge part is their diminutive point guard Tweety Carter, who is averaging 15.6 points and seven assists per game against a mere 2.6 turnovers..."
The Nightmare, Ekpe Udoh, ranks third in triple-doubles, fourth in blocked shots per game, seventh in rebounds per game and eighth in double-doubles. Did we mention that Udoh also leads the Big 12 in rebounds and blocks? In Monday's Omaha World-Herald, Lee Barfknecht gave fans a lesson in how to pronounce Ekpe's name:
"Let's start with a lesson in pronunciation. Baylor center Ekpe Udoh says his name EPP-ay YOU-doe. Why is that worth knowing? You'll want to get it right when the junior from Edmond, Okla., is named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and first-team All-Big 12."
He may not rack up assists like Carter or crash the boards as much as Udoh, but LaceDarius Dunn gives you the same thing as the other two: 40 minutes of toughness, effort and scoring. Lots of scoring. Dunn, who has skyrocketed to ninth on Baylor's career scoring list, is third nationally with 3.5 3-point field goals made per game. He also ranks top 50 nationally in scoring (40th) and 3-point field goal percentage (44th). Dunn leads the Big 12 in scoring in conference-only games with 25.3 points per contest. Lace is 16th on Rivals.com's Shooting Guard Power Rankings this week.
MORE BRACKET RACKET
BEARS ON GLOCKNER'S EARLY BUBBLE WATCH
Monday Afternoon Bracketology
After weeks of not being on the Baylor bandwagon, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi kept the Bears in his weekly Bracketology for a second consecutive week Monday as a No. 7 seed in Providence against No. 10 seed Florida State - a team the Bears didn't play, but did get a chance to watch in Orlando during the Old Spice Classic in November. The way it is currently set up, the Baylor/Florida State winner would face the No. 2 Villanova Wildcats or the No. 15 Vermont Catamounts. And as Lunardi predicted in his previous bracket, the Baylor/Oklahoma State winner gets in...the loser is out. Well, the Cowboys are listed as one of Lunardi's next four out Monday.
Keeping seed numbers, but switching regions...Bracketography.com also has the Bears as a No. 7 seed, but against No. 10 Florida in Jacksonville (hear that, Coach Driscoll?). The winner? Gets a date with No. 2 Duke.
TheHoopsReports.com gives Baylor its highest seed of the day in the East Region (Syracuse) - as a No. 6 seed against No. 11 Minnesota. Had Baylor been a No. 7 seed in this region, the Bears would too, presumably, be paired with No. 2 Duke.
Lunardi and SI.com's Andy Glockner must be sharing bracket notes. Lunardi has the Bears as the No. 7 seed in Providence, while Glockner has them as a No. 10 seed at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence against Ole Miss. Glockner also has the 7-10 game in Providence paired with No. 2 Villanova/No. 15 Vermont. Interesting...
A week behind, but still worth noting...Last week, CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm projected Baylor as a No. 5 seed against No. 12 St. John's in Spokane, Wash. The No. 5 seed is Baylor's highest of the season thus far.
STAYIN' ALIVE IN THE AP
'The Nightmare' and 'The Cookie Monster' Were, Well, Dunnbelievable
Baylor (14-2, 2-1) extended its home court win streak to a Ferrell Center record-tying 10 games with its 83-70 win over Oklahoma State Saturday. The Big 12 is now 118-6 (.952) at home this season. And if you thought last Saturday's win against Oklahoma had lots of dunks, look at the above photo again. This time, Baylor didn't need the house lights to turn off in order to get an impromptu pep talk. All they needed was a momentum-shifting performance by LaceDarius Dunn. Dunn outscored the Big 12's leading scorer (Oklahoma State's James Anderson), scoring a game-high 25 points for his third consecutive 20-point game. His nine points over a four-minute span after picking up two fouls in a matter of seconds helped propel the Bears to an 83-70 win over the Cowboys. Lace also grabbed a season-high nine rebounds and two assists.
In the midst of his nine-point run in the second half, Dunn passed former teammate Aaron Bruce for ninth on the school's career scoring list with 1,340 points. We said it before; we'll say it again: Dunn will be the first player to threaten Terry Teagle's career scoring record.
In addition to Lace being, well, Dunnbelievable, sophomore wing Anthony Jones scored a career-high 16 points, while holding Oklahoma State three-point threat Keiton Page to all of three points. Of course, the 5-foot-9 Page was at a huge height disadvantage to the 6-foot-10 (and then some) Jones. And then there was Ekpe Udoh. 'The Nightmare' continued to haunt the opposition on both offense and defense, finishing with his 10th double-double - 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Baylor's Bear Pit rose to the occasion Saturday, wearing Jason masks from the movie Friday the 13th - in obvious homage to 'The Nightmare'.
Quincy Acy, who recorded a double-double in his first career start last season vs. Oklahoma State, added 12 points, five rebounds and a plethora of ESPN highlights. 'The Cookie Monster' lived up to his moniker...cleaning the glass and dunking a. lot. While the aforementioned performances were all great, the best performance of the night may go somewhat unnoticed. Tweety Carter scored nine points, but dished out a game-high eight assists, while committing only one turnover. Carter is averaging 7.0 assists per game and has an impressive 2.71 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Now that Carter has met the minimum requirement of playing in at least 75 percent of Baylor's games, he should rank in the top 10 in both the Big 12 and NCAA in assists per game. If the nation didn't know about Tweety Carter, they will when the latest NCAA statistics are posted Monday afternoon.
Baylor has now 74 games over the last three-plus seasons, matching the most wins over a four-year period in school history. The next Bears win will give them four consecutive 15-win seasons for only the second time in school history. Baylor has now defeated Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the same season for the first time in school history. Like Scott Drew told us after the game this evening, he loves winning. We love winning.
SATURDAY'S OKLAHOMA STATE LEFTOVERS
Another exciting win for the Bears, which improved to 14-2 on the season. Next up: the Kansas Jayhawks. Last season, the Bears had 14 wins when they visited the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan, Kan., and left the Sunflower State with their 15th victory. We're just sayin'...
Bears Look to Continue Big 12 Home Court Advantage
The 22nd-ranked Baylor Bears (13-2, 1-1) were victim No. 113 Tuesday night after their loss to the Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder, Colo. Entering Saturday, the Big 12 is 114-4 (.966) at home this afternoon after all three road teams won Wednesday night. Four days after trying to end the Big 12's home court advantage, Baylor will now try to defend it against the 13-3 Oklahoma State Cowboys Saturday in the Ferrell Center.
The Bears, which throttled the Oklahoma Sooners by 31 points last Saturday, will also try to extend their home winning streak to a Ferrell Center record-tying 10 games. What else is on the line Saturday? A win Saturday would give Baylor victories over both Big 12 Oklahoma schools in the same season for the first time in program history. The Bears are also two wins shy of posting their fourth straight 15-win season for only the second time in school history.
Remember the last time Oklahoma State ventured to the Ferrell Center? The Cookie Monster made his first career start, scoring a then career-high 17 points and 12 rebounds, to lead No. 21 Baylor to a 98-92 overtime win over the Pokes. The Bears trailed by seven at the break, but rallied in the second half behind a game-high 31 points by Curtis Jerrells. The Bears have won the last three series meetings in Waco.
Saturday will also serve as a reunion for former Sana Fe High School (Edmond, Okla.) teammates, Baylor's Ekpe Udoh and Oklahoma State's Obi Muonelo. Another fun fact? Big 12 Network color analyst for today's game, Bryndon Manzer, also lives in Edmond and watched both play high school basketball.
We're going to spare you our 'Keys to the Game' and just get straight to today's preview:
PREVIEWING OKLAHOMA STATE
BEARS SEEKING FIRST AGAINST BIG 12 OKLAHOMA SCHOOLS
ANOTHER MILESTONE ON THE HORIZON
BAYLOR AS A NATIONALLY RANKED TEAM
A BAYLOR WIN WOULD...
FORMER ROCKETS GM DAWSON TO BE HONORED SATURDAY AS BAYLOR BASKETBALL LEGEND
TWEETY CARTER FEATURED ON FRONT PAGE OF FOXSPORTSSOUTHWEST.COM
BAYLOR STILL NEAR TOP IN LATEST NCAA STATISTICAL STANDINGS
Drisc Building the Ospreys Program, One Fan at a Time
He helped orchestrate the Baylor basketball rebuilding project when he arrived (via a seven-week stint at Valparaiso) in 2003 with head coach Scott Drew. Now, he's rebuilding another Division I basketball program...this time as the head coach. Matthew Driscoll is building the North Florida Ospreys basketball program one fan at a time. Literally. From his wife Carrie helping in marketing efforts to Drisc himself going to each fraternity house and campus organization, selling his coaching philosophy to college students, the energy on the Jacksonville, Fla., campus is at an all-time high.
From the moment Driscoll was announced as UNF's newest head coach in April 2009, Coach D has hit the ground running. If you gave him five minutes, he could sell ice to eskimos. Or find a Dunkin' Donuts for a large coffee. He's the best of the best and he still has a major impact on the Baylor Bears. All last season, Coach Driscoll could be seen before Baylor home games working with Ekpe Udoh on various post moves, rebounding and other offensive drills. To this day, when Ekpe is asked about this season, it doesn't take long before he mentions Coach Driscoll.
In front of 1,234 fans Thursday night at UNF Arena, the Ospreys won for the eighth time in their last nine games after Matt Sauey tipped-in a Brad Haugabrook miss at the buzzer for a 45-43 victory over Belmont. It marked the second time in the program's 18-year history that the Ospreys won eight of nine, matching their 8-1 start in 1994-95. It was also North Florida's first win against Atlantic Sun foe Belmont which participated in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament last season. UNF is now 9-8 and 4-3 in the A-Sun on the season. Those nine wins? One more than the Ospreys won all of last season (8-22 overall).
Driscoll has transformed the attitude at North Florida in a matter of months. In a recent feature article by North Florida men's basketball SID Jeff Wuerth, Coach Driscoll has a matter-of-fact reply for anyone who questions whether championships can be won at UNF:
"Why not?"..."When people say, 'Why here, why North Florida?' I say, 'Why not?' That's what I would say to you. Tell me why it can't be done?"
By the looks of it thus far, North Florida found the right man for the job. Nearly two years ago, Driscoll was voted the No. 9 assistant coach nationally in a survey of coaching professionals conducted and published by FoxSports.com. And his hire at North Florida last April made national headlines.
In nine short months, he's built North Florida one coach, one player and one fan at a time. And, in the course of writing this, he's made FCP into a North Florida fan...We're telling you; he could sell ice to eskimos!
A Big 12 Road Win Is Still Tough to Find
When we arrived in Waco at 2 a.m. this morning, we even tried typing in 'Big 12 Road Win' in our GPS and it still didn't come up...Like the previous 13 seasons, Big 12 teams are finding it tougher and tougher to win on the road in league play. That's a testament to 12 homecourt advantages in the league, as well. After Kansas State defeated Texas A&M in Manhattan and Colorado upset No. 22 Baylor last night in Boulder, the Big 12 improved to 114-1 at home this season. That's an incredible stat. No other league in the nation can boast a .991 winning percentage at home like the Big 12...
Not only were the Bears faced with the aforementioned Big 12 home mark, Baylor was also up against a much improved Colorado team, which - after last night's 78-71 win - has now surpassed last season's win total. The Buffs (10-6, 1-1) shot a Rocky Mountain High 50 percent (26-of-52) from the floor for the game and 61.5 percent in the second half. Both were season highs for a Baylor opponent. In fact, Colorado is the first team this season to shoot 50 percent or better against the Bears. The previous high field goal percentage by an opponent...Alabama. Colorado's 78 points are the second-most points allowed by the Bears this season - second only to Alabama (79).
Baylor (13-2, 1-1), which snapped a nine-game winning streak and fell one win shy of posting the best start in school history, led by as many as six points (in the first half). LaceDarius Dunn was so en fuego in the first half last night that he would have melted the snow outside Coors Events Center. The worst thing that happened? Halftime. Dunn still managed to score a game-high 23 points, posting his 21st career 20-point game (and sixth this season).
Despite some people butchering his name all night, Ekpe Udoh - after being held scoreless in the first half - recorded his ninth double-double this season (14 points, 14 rebounds). When interviewed by a reporter postgame, he took the blame for the loss, citing his four turnovers. He's humble. He was a nightmare for Colorado offensively and defensively. He's one of the main reasons why Baylor is 13-2 this season.
Baylor may be 1-1 in its second season, but the Bears still have very 15 meaningful games remaining on the regular season schedule, including eight home games (seven Big 12 and one against UMass). The Big 12 is 114-1 at home this season. That one loss may not stay, but that certainly doesn't mean the Bears can't defend their home court the rest of the season.
In case you haven't noticed, Saturday has a pretty good story line when Udoh faces former high school teammate Obi Muonelo and the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Ferrell Center.
The best is yet to come.
NewsFlash: This Isn't Last Year's Buffaloes
Don't expect Tuesday night's Big 12 Conference road clash between 22 (AP)/24 (ESPN) Baylor (13-1, 1-0) and Colorado (9-6, 0-1) to be a low-scoring affair. Baylor's high-scoring offense (31st nationally at 79.6 points per game) and 32nd-ranked scoring defense (60.7) will meet a much-improved Colorado scoring attack that is averaging 77.1 points per game.
Another wrinkle from last year is Colorado will try to push its opponent in transition, meaning apply pressure to catch the opponent on its heels and score quick buckets. But you'll still see Colorado run its Princeton-style offense. The Buffaloes have already matched last season's win total (9) in 15 games and gave newly-appointed No. 1 Texas a run for its money in Austin last week...The Buffs scored 86 points on the Longhorns in a 17-point loss.
But the Buffaloes will be going up against a Baylor team that leads the nation in rebounding margin (+11.4), second in field goal percentage defense (34.9), sixth in blocked shots per game (7.9), eighth in field goal percentage (49.9) and eighth in scoring margin (+18.9).
Baylor, ranked in both Top 25 polls for the first time this season, is 6-2 all-time when ranked in both polls simultaneously. Last season, the Bears won four straight before a heartbreaking 85-84 home loss to South Carolina. Last time Baylor was ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll when it played at a Big 12 North school? Lace Dunn scored a season-high 33 points in a 83-65 win at Kansas State last January.
So how important is this game? Well, in the world of the Big 12, every game is important. According to our favorite Cuttin' in the Baylor Line blogger Justin Cange, Baylor is back on the map. We tend to agree with that statement...
A TV Disclaimer: Tuesday's game will be televised statewide on FOX Sports Plus, which is available locally on Time Warner Digital Channel 15 and Grande Channel 20. Here's the rest of the TV listings.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: COLORADO
A ROAD WIN IN THE BIG 12 IS HARD TO FIND
BAYLOR MORE SUCCESSFUL AGAINST BIG 12 NORTH
A BAYLOR WIN WOULD...
UP NEXT FOR THE BEARS
Tonight's KEYS TO THE GAME are beginning to sound like a broken record so we'll save the superfluous text and just give you the skinny:
Don't forget to turn down the sound on your TV and turn up the volume on your radio dial to the Baylor ISP Sports Network on ESPN 1660 with The Voice of the Baylor Bears John Morris and the man that needs no introduction Pat Nunley.
Sit Back, Enjoy the Game and Sic 'Em Bears.
Uh-Oh, Here Comes Udoh
That's the headline in Tuesday's Boulder Daily Camera. Colorado (9-6, 0-1) is preparing itself to face the 22nd-ranked Baylor Bears (13-1) and reigning Big 12 Player of the Week Ekpe Udoh Tuesday night in the Coors Events Center. Udoh has become arguably the most dominating big man in the Big 12 thus far and has 66 blocks to his credit through 14 games.
Not only will the Bears be facing the thin air Tuesday, they will also be armed with an impressive task: Big 12 schools are 112-1 at home this season after Oklahoma upended Oklahoma State in Norman Monday night. Eight of Colorado's nine wins come in Boulder. Baylor is 3-0 in true road games this season and has won five straight road contests. Baylor's three true road wins are the most by any Big 12 team this season.
Baylor's inclusion in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 Polls make the Bears one of three Big 12 teams to be ranked in each of the last three seasons, joining Kansas and Texas.
More Bracket Racket. In his latest Bracket Watch, SI.com's Andy Glockner has the Bears as a No. 10 seed in Milwaukee against No. 7 Wake Forest...a possible rematch of the 2008 76 Classic title game from Anaheim, Calif.
Tuesday will definitely prove to be an important test. We'll tell you why later today...
Monday Afternoon Bracketology
Just in case you've missed the last few hours...
Ekpe Udoh was named Big 12 Player of the Week;
But, we've saved - we think - the best part of our Monday for last...
After Baylor ran its record to 13-1, including a 91-60 blowout win over Oklahoma last Saturday in Waco, the Bears are appearing - for the first time, we might add - on Joe Lunardi's latest ESPN Bracketology bracket. Baylor is, however, among his last four teams in, as he's put the Bears as a No. 11 seed against No. 6 Temple in Buffalo (East Region). Baylor, for the time being according to Lunardi, would be one of two Big 12 teams skirting into the tournament field, joining Oklahoma State. In his breakdown, Lunardi lists Saturday's Oklahoma State/Baylor contest as "a true bubble game after which only the winner is in the field".
Turning our attention to TheHoopsReport.com, Baylor is projected as a No. 8 seed against No. 9 Rhode Island. The winner of that game would presumably get No. 1 Kentucky, which is listed as the nation's top seed according to this bracket model (in Oklahoma City).
According to the latest Bracketography.com projections, Baylor would get a second chance to beat Alabama which defeated the Bears in the Old Spice Classic. The Bears are listed as a No. 7 seed in Jacksonville, Fla., current home of former Baylor assistant and current North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll. Coach D did say "if you are ever in Jacksonville, our house is only eight minutes from the beach". Well coach, it might be a bit early to start making plans...yet.
It sure does feel good to start this week ranked in the Top 25...
Boom Goes the Dynamite: The Day Aftermath
Like us, we're sure that the rest of BaylorNation is still reveling in the Bears' 91-60 blowout of the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in the Ferrell Center. The Rejection Capital of the Nation (aptly named by Big 12 Network announcers Bob Carpenter and Rich Zvosec) wasn't so friendly to the Sooners as the Bears blocked nine shots, including seven by 'The Nightmare', Ekpe Udoh. Udoh upped his mind-boggling season total to 66 blocks through 14 games - which stands fifth on the Baylor single-season list.
Baylor's 30-game losing streak to Oklahoma that dated back to the first year of the Jimmy Carter administration is over. It is Baylor's first 13-1 start since 2000-01 (the Bears finished 19-12 and lost in the NIT first round). Baylor's last 14-1 start? Never. Baylor is now 58-27 in the last two-plus seasons and has now won 20 of its last 23 games. Under the radar, anyone? Cuttin' in the Baylor Line's Justin Cange asked us just moments ago: "When was the last time Baylor won a conference game by 30+ points?" That would be Feb. 3, 2002, when Baylor throttled Texas A&M, 97-45, in Waco.
Lately, when everyone talks about the now 13-1 Baylor Bears, one name keeps surfacing: Ekpe Udoh. It's hard to deny his epic stat line: 14.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.7 blocks. But as we said Saturday afternoon...But What About Tweety? And the same can now be mentioned of LaceDarius Dunn who has improved from his sick numbers as a sophomore and is among the Big 12's leading scorers. And, don't forget about the leader of Baylor's Kangaroos in Basketball Shoes, Quincy Acy (see picture above).
The best part about Baylor's 31-point win over Oklahoma Saturday? No, it wasn't 30 points for each loss during the streak. No, it wasn't Acy's mammoth jam over Cade Davis. No, it wasn't Carter's midcourt alley-oop pass to Acy. It was seeing several former Bears hoopsters witness the end of a streak Saturday in the Ferrell Center (in addition to Baylor ISP Sports Radio color analyst Pat Nunley): former player and coach Carroll Dawson; Aaron Bruce (2004-2008), Tim Bush (2005-2007), complete with Tweety's McDonald's All-American No. 2 jersey; Harlem Globetrotter Aundre Branch (1992-1995); Andre White (2001-2003); Jason Pritchard (2000-2002); Richard Hurd (2005-2008), who was dressed as a Baylor gorilla in his No. 22 jersey; Mamadou Diene (2005-2009); Kendall Wright (2009); and Mark Shepherd (2004-2008).
With the Bears posting its third consecutive win in a Big 12 opener, here's "The Day Aftermath" as told through Sunday's headlines:
Baylor's program punch list is nearing completion. Snap 24-game losing streak to Texas? Check. Beat Kansas? Check. Snap 30-game losing streak to Oklahoma? Check. First 13-1 start in the Scott Drew era? Check. First 14-1 start in program history and first Top 25 ranking in 2009-10? That's next.
Ding, Dong, the Streak is Gone
We mentioned it without mentioning it. All week, we had a good feeling about Saturday's Big 12 opener against the Oklahoma Sooners. Entering Saturday, Baylor had lost 30 straight games to the Sooners over a 32-year span. Well, the Bears exorcised 32 years of frustration in exhilarating fashion with a 31-point thrashing of the Sooners, 91-60, in front of 8,757 fans in the Ferrell Center. Now that's the way to end a streak.
The 30-game losing streak to OU? Dead. Baylor's nine-game overall and home win streaks? Alive and well. Does Saturday's 31-point win get Baylor in the Top 25? Maybe. It sure will wake up some voters.Either way, Baylor is finally over the hump...the Bears are 13-1 after two straight 12-2 starts.
So what was the "game-changing" moment Saturday? Was it LaceDarius Dunn scoring 23 of his game-high 28 points in the second half? Tweety Carter's second career double-double? Ekpe Udoh's seven blocks? Quincy Acy dunking on Oklahoma's Cade Davis? No, No, No and a great play. The real game-changer (in our opinion, of course) was - believe it or not - the house lights going out around 12:00 mark of the first half. At that exact moment, Oklahoma led by nine, 20-11, and was literally shooting lights out (70 percent from the floor), while Baylor was struggling to find its rhythm. After a 10-minute (or so) delay, Baylor found its groove, closing the half on a 30-6 run to take a 41-26 halftime lead.
Something clicked on for the Bears...and it wasn't the house lights. Baylor and Oklahoma played without two-thirds of the lights on for nearly five minutes before the remainder turned on. From then on, it was Baylor's game...The Bears played its best 40 minutes this season. Hands down.
Udoh proved that he's one of the best power forwards in the Big 12 (and the nation) with 14 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks against the Sooners. Udoh has 36 blocks in his last five games. To put it in perspective: Acy had 34 blocks in 34 games in 2008-09. Unreal.
But What About Tweety?
Through 13 games, when the College Basketball Nation think Baylor Basketball, they think LaceDarius Dunn - one of the nation's premier three-point shooters - and Ekpe Udoh - a rebounding and shot-blocking machine - but what about Tweety Carter? We've been asked that question a few times by former Baylor basketballer Tim Bush. What about Tweety? Granted, with missing the season's first four games, Carter is not eligible to be ranked among the NCAA's and Big 12's statistical leaders because he does not meet the minimum number of games played.
An argument for argument's sake: If you put Tweety's numbers up against the rest of the nation, one of the nation's shortest point guards would rank THIRD in the nation in assists per game at 6.6. Only Siena's Ronald Moore (8.7) and Kentucky's John Wall (7.3) would be better. Carter's 6.6 would lead the Big 12 by more than 1.00 per game (Texas Tech's John Roberson leads at 5.57).
Even Rush The Court sees the same thing we see: Baylor may be (one of) the most purely athletic teams (in the Big 12) with LaceDarius Dunn's shooting ability, Ekpe Udoh as a force blocking shots and rebounding in the paint and one of the best passing point guards in the nation in Tweety Carter (6.6 APG).
That leads us to today's KEYS TO THE GAME:
Saturday's Story Lines: Streaks Galore
Dec. 6, 1977. That's the last time Baylor defeated Oklahoma. Since then, the Sooners have dominated the series with 30 straight victories over the Bears. THIRTY in 32-plus years. Vinnie Johnson, the most prolific two-year scorer in Baylor history, scored 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Baylor's 75-69 win in Norman some 11,722 days ago. Baylor ISP Sports Radio color analyst Pat Nunley was a freshman on that team that successfully knocked off the Sooners in '77. The last time Baylor defeated Oklahoma in Waco? 1954.
While Baylor (12-1) hopes to extinguish yet another losing streak to a Big 12 rival (the Bears ended their 24-game losing skid to Texas in the 2009 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship semifinals), the Bears also looking to extend their overall win, home win and Big 12 opener win streaks Saturday. A Baylor win would extend its overall and home win streaks to a Scott Drew era-best nine games - the fifth-longest in school history. And it would also give Baylor its third straight win a Big 12 opener.
If those last two paragraphs don't excite you enough for Saturday's Big 12 opener, then read what Justin Cange said in his latest Cuttin' in the Baylor Line post.
TV INFORMATION: For those that don't recall from last season, Saturday's game will televised on the Big 12 Network, previously branded as ESPN Plus. A complete list of regional affiliates carry Saturday's game is available here. Remember: the list of affiliates can change from game to game, so be sure to check BaylorBears.com early and often. And if for some reason you don't get it in your area, it will also be available on ESPN Full Court (pay-per-view) and ESPN360.com.
BAYLOR IN BIG 12 OPENERS
A BAYLOR WIN WOULD...
WHO'S THE MAN? UDOH'S THE MAN
BAYLOR CLIMBS INTO ESPN'S TOP 25 POWER RANKINGS
RIVALS.COM POWER RANKINGS
GOTTLIEB'S EXCITED...ARE YOU?
I'm looking forward to Oklahoma at Baylor. BU hasn't beaten OU since 1977. If not now, when? LaceDarius Dunn and the 12-1 Bears are the Big 12's best-kept secret and have three very winnable games to begin league play.
BRACKET WATCH: SPOKANE, ANYONE?
Can't make it to the game? Or can't watch it on TV? Be sure to tune into 1660 ESPN with 'The Voice of the Baylor Bears', John Morris, and the man that needs no introduction, color analyst extraordinaire, Pat Nunley.
We'll see you in the Ferrell Center Saturday...When the Real Season Begins.
All Aboard the Udoh Express
We still contend Ekpe Udoh belongs on our All-Decade second team and The Nightmare is by and large our runaway favorite for the best player of this decade. After Udoh recorded the fifth triple-double in school history (and the second of the FCP Era - yeah, we are designating our own space in time), Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman was quite complimentary of the frontline Scott Drew has assembled:
"Baylor is a good team and a good program. Their frontline is huge. It is like an NBA frontline. (Ekpe Udoh) will be (playing in the NBA) at some point, he is an outstanding player. He is very dominant and made his presence felt. The guards are very active so it was no surprise that (Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn) had 16 points. The Big 12 is probably one of the top two leagues in the country right now and Baylor will get their share of wins."
Believe it or not, Udoh is getting better with each game. It seems like he does something new every time he walks out onto the court. When Udoh popped a spin move along the baseline and slammed it home, we saw both NBA scouts in attendance scribbling frantically in their notebooks.
Udoh in Baylor's first five games (4-1): 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 blocks
Udoh finished the night with a team-high 18 points, 17 rebounds and a career-high 10 blocks. Udoh's 10 blocks tied the single-game school record held by Brian Skinner, who reached it in both of his career triple-doubles. His 17 rebounds are the most by a Baylor player with a triple-double (previously 14 by Skinner). Wednesday marked the 11th triple-double in Big 12 history and just the fifth triple-double with points, rebounds and blocks by a league player.
The Nightmare has eight double-doubles through 13 games and needs two more to crack the single-season top 10 list. Udoh has already matched Kevin Rogers' team-best eight double-doubles from a year ago. The school record? 19 by Jerome Lambert in 1993-94.
Just three weeks ago, The Nightmare was basking in the glow of relative obscurity. No one knew just how good Udoh had become at Baylor. But once FOXSports.com's Jeff Goodman, CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish and Rivals.com's Jason King saw Udoh in person Dec. 20 in Waco (when he narrowly missed a triple-double), the secret was out. Now, more and more outlets are starting to take notice.
How impressive has Ekpe been thus far? Consider this: Udoh scored 191 points in 32 games as a sophomore at Michigan in 2007-08; he has 184 points in 13 games this season. He's also 11 rebounds shy of surpassing his sophomore season total (160) at Michigan.After the game, Tweety Carter was asked by one of the media whose triple-double he thought was more impressive: Udoh's or Curtis Jerrells' last season? Carter said "both". Our thought? All aboard the Udoh Express.
Just Previewing the Bear(s) Necessities
Tonight's game with Morgan State may have more nationally significance than some people may realize. It will feature the nation's top-five scorer (Morgan State's Reggie Holmes), two top-10 rebounders (Morgan State's Kevin Thompson and Baylor's Ekpe Udoh) and a top-five shot blocker (Udoh). Thompson also ranks second in double-doubles (10), while Udoh is 19th with seven.
We prefaced this in Sunday's blog: Beware the Morgan State Bears. Tonight's game is by no means a "cake walk". Like Baylor's Jan. 23 with UMass, think of it as an extention of conference play. So, instead of 16 games, look at it as though the Bears are playing 18 beginning tonight. Morgan State has scored 80-plus points seven times (5-2) this season as compared to Baylor's five (5-0). The Bears from Baltimore can score in bunches which was evident in Morgan State's 97-94 win Nov. 24 at Arkansas in Fayetteville.
And judging about the amount of free throws they've shot, the (Morgan State) Bears have a propensity for both committing and drawing fouls. In 14 games, Morgan State has committed 326 fouls - an average of 23.3 per game - and has attempted 398 free throws. Morgan State has MADE more free throws than Baylor has ATTEMPTED. Let us repeat that: Morgan State FTM (288) > Baylor FTA (261). Of course, Morgan State has 17 foul outs this season, while Baylor has just four.
Entering tonight's non-conference game, the Baylor Bears are holding strong with a pair of seven-game win streaks...a seven-game win streak overall and a seven-game home win streak. A Baylor win tonight would:
PREVIEWING MORGAN STATE
INTERESTING FAST FACT
JANUARY NOT AS KIND TO THE BEARS
BAYLOR VS. THE MEAC
UP NEXT FOR THE BEARS
Don't forget...Tonight is Hometown Heroes Night in the Ferrell Center. All military (active and retired), police officers, fire fighters and family members will get into the game at a discounted rate of $5 per ticket.
Wednesday is the last non-televised regular season game of the season - the remaining 17 will be televised at the regional and/or national level. Can't make it tonight? Be sure to tune into 1660 ESPN with 'The Voice of the Baylor Bears', John Morris, and the man that needs no introduction, color analyst extraordinaire, Pat Nunley.
New Year, New Resolutions and Mondays are Still Crazy
Mondays are usually crazy, but not this crazy. Earlier today, the Big 12 named LaceDarius Dunn and Ekpe Udoh as its Phillips 66 Co-Player and Co-Rookie of the Week, respectively, adding another historic feather on head coach Scott Drew's cap. It marks the first time Baylor has won both awards the same week in the 14-year history of the Big 12.
This morning, we put together our Monday Morning Bracketology before we headed out the door to the Ferrell Center for media interviews. Since then, Rush The Court has published its latest bracket with the Bears as a No. 9 seed against No. 8 Florida...and a Bears win. And ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his first bracketology report of 2010, but the Bears were a no-show on Lunardi's bracket.
SI.COM'S SETH DAVIS THOUGHTS ON THE BAYLOR BEARS
The Bears have earned this rare rating [BUY-PLUS] because they have gotten absolutely no notice (much less respect from the pollsters) for their 11-1 start. True, their schedule hasn't exactly been a murderer's row, but they do have away-from-home wins over Xavier (neutral) and Arizona State (road), and last week they won at Arkansas and South Carolina by a combined 34 points. Just watch 'em play and you'll see why I'm so high on them. Baylor has been one of the more athletic teams in the Big 12 the last two years, but know they are also one of the biggest teams in the nation, with a formidable frontline anchored by 6-foot-10 power forward Ekpe Udoh, who is fourth in the nation in blocks and leads the Big 12 in rebounds. Baylor will have a chance to justify my rating during a four-game stretch beginning Jan. 20...If they win just one of those three (Kansas, Texas and Kansas State), their stock will skyrocket.
COACHES CHALKTALK NATIONAL COACHES' DIARY SERIES
FORMER ASSISTANT DRISCOLL MAKES PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE SPORTS FRONT PAGE
Just another Manic Monday.
Monday Morning Bracketology
After stretching its winning streak to a Scott Drew era best seven games, the Baylor Bears have stormed out of the gate 11-1 for the third consecutive season. The Bears are 18-3 in their 21 games since the conclusion of the 2008-09 regular season - the second-best record over 21 games in program history only to a 19-2 stretch during the 1945-46 season. Rather impressive, don't you think?
There's no better way to kick off the first Monday of the new decade than to unveil the latest in Monday Morning Bracketology. Bracketography.com projects the Bears as a No. 9 seed in the EAST REGION, playing projected Atlantic 10 automatic bid and No. 8 seed Temple in Jacksonville, Fla. The Temple-Baylor winner would get...in all likelyhood No. 1 Duke. Bracketography.com also has eight of Baylor's 2009-10 opponents in its field of 65 - with Xavier on the outside looking in.
As for TheHoopsReports.com, the Bears are projected as the No. 10 seed in the SOUTH REGION against No. 7 Minnesota in the Land of Tweety Carter...New Orleans.
Not a bad way to start the first Monday of the new decade.
The Road Week in Review
Those in favor of more non-conference road games, raise your hand...Baylor is off to its third consecutive 11-1 start after cruising to a pair of road wins over SEC schools this past week. The Kangaroos in Basketball Shoes - if you will (as coined by ESPN analyst and former Arkansas player Jimmy Dykes) - were not fazed by the raucous crowd at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., last Wednesday.
Baylor showed its killer instinct by trouncing the Razorbacks, relentlessly pushing the ball up and down the floor. As for Mr. Ekpe Udoh (now known from coast to coast by his nickname, The Nightmare, which, of course, was given - not by us - by The Cookie Monster himself, Quincy Acy), he dominated the glass and altered shots all...night...long. Udoh pulled down 15 boards and blocked eight shots - one off his career high - to help the Bears finish off the Hogs by 23 points. Did we mention Ekpe's stat line? His line at Arkansas pales in comparison to what he did Saturday at South Carolina.
Udoh recorded his seventh double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and pulling down a career-high 20 rebounds in the 85-74 win over the Gamecocks. Wanna hear something scary? Udoh has 133 rebounds this season; he had 139 in 35 games as a freshman and 160 in 32 games as a sophomore.
CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish mentioned the importance of Udoh to the Baylor program in his column Friday. Adding to his line of work Saturday, Udoh is averaging 14.0 points, 17.0 rebounds and 6.3 blocks over his last three games:
22 points, 16 rebounds, 9 blocks vs. UT Arlington (Dec. 20)
Does anyone want to argue now about Udoh's inclusion onto our All-Decade second team? Through 12 games, Udoh is leading the Big 12 with 11.1 rebounds and 4.08 blocks per game. He also ranks second in the league in field goal percentage. At his current pace, Udoh should compile roughly 120 blocked shots, which would shatter Brian Skinner's school record of 98 set in 1997-98. His 49 blocks currently rank sixth on Baylor's single-season chart.
The Nightmare wasn't the only Bear shining in the two road victories. LaceDarius Dunn led all Baylor scorers in both games with 19 and 21, respectively, while shooting 53.3 percent from downtown...We think it's safe to say that Lace has found his sweet stroke again. Fellow Louisianian Tweety Carter averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 assists in two wins...all while shooting 57.1 percent from 3-point land. Anthony Jones, Acy and Josh Lomers each averaged at least 9.0 points in two games. That's what we call a well-balanced offensive attack - Dunn (20.0), Carter (12.5), Udoh (10.0), Jones (9.5), Acy (9.0) and Lomers (9.0).
Remember the Pie Club during the NIT last season? In similar fashion, a road win = dessert. How did we celebrate Saturday's 11-point win? Well, the 'HOT' sign was on at the Krispy Kreme in Cayce, S.C., so head coach Scott Drew had the bus stop to pick up a few dozen boxes of donuts for the drive to the airport. Coach Drew later tweeted the greatness that was Krispy Kreme.
One final thought before we go: Beware the Morgan State Bears. Last season, Todd Bozeman's squad made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. This season, the Bears (Morgan State, not Baylor) have defeated Arkansas, lost by nine at Louisville and have scored 80-plus points in seven of their 13 games thus far. Morgan state plays Monday at Robert Morris before heading to Central Texas for Wednesday's game.
THE WEEK THAT WAS, IN NUMBERS
A Very Anticlimactic End to Our Countdown
We've spent the last few weeks building up to this moment during our 13 Days of Baylor Basketball countdown. However, today's finale lacks many of the thrills that preceded it in past entries...
In Wednesday's 70-47 road win over Arkansas in North Little Rock, Baylor blocked an impressive 12 shots, including eight alone from one Ekpe Udoh. And that's not even a season high for both...Baylor blocked a school record-tying 13 shots Dec. 20 vs. UTA. You'd think that would be the end of our countdown, right? The real 13 is the jersey number worn by 'The Nightmare'.
What Udoh has accomplished in his first 12 games at Baylor - in our opinion - is unmatched in the 104-year history of the program - 14.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks...Lest we forget his six double-doubles and newly established career highs for points (22), rebounds (16) and blocks (nine).
So there it is...The countdown is complete with an hour to spare before Baylor and South Carolina tip off in Columbia, S.C. We know one thing is for sure: at least one person has read our 13 days worth of entries; in case you missed it yesterday, CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish mentioned Baylor's rebounding margin difference from last season and later credited us for his informational research. Thanks, Gary!
13. Jan. 2, 2010 - The Real 13, Ekpe Udoh
Baylor's non-conference road game at South Carolina will tip at 11 a.m. CST on FOX Sports Carolinas. The game will air in Central Texas on FOX Sports Plus - Time Warner Channel 15 and Grande Channel 20.
How Important is Ekpe Udoh? See Gary Parrish.
A few weeks ago, Baylor junior forward Ekpe Udoh converted a few more believers when he established career highs in points (22), rebounds (16) and blocks (nine) in the Bears' 94-63 rout of UT Arlington Dec. 20 in the Ferrell Center. FOXSports.com's Jeff Goodman, Rivals.com's Jason King and CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish all left Waco impressed with Baylor's newest addition...and rightfully so. Since then, all three national college basketball writers have written about Udoh's impressive season thus far.
Back to the original question. How important is Ekpe Udoh? According to Gary, very. In Parrish's Friday Look Ahead column, he mentioned the importance of Udoh to Baylor's success this season, while also referencing the Bears' improved rebounding margin that we mentioned this morning:
Ekpe Udoh's importance to Baylor can be measured in a lot of ways, but the best way is to look at how the Bears are rebounding this season as opposed to last season, when Udoh was sitting out per NCAA transfer rules. Baylor outrebounded its opponents by an average of +0.7 boards (through 11 games) last season but are now outrebounding opponents by an average of +11.4 boards, meaning they've better this season by an average of 10.7 boards per game. Udoh is averaged 10.3 rebounds per game. So yeah, the transfer from Michigan is having a massive impact heading into Saturday's game at South Carolina.
Did we mention Udoh has 31 rebounds and 17 blocks in the last two games?
(South) Carolina On My Mind
Taking a page from Cuttin' in the Baylor Line's Justin Cange, we reference the great James Taylor song, Carolina in My Mind, for today's preview. Before we continue, let us note that Carolina in My Mind was written about North Carolina, not South Carolina. However, South Carolina on My Mind is the state's official second song.
For the fourth consecutive season, Baylor (10-1) and South Carolina (8-4) will meet on the hardwood. And for the fourth consecutive meeting, the road team (see: Baylor) is looking for a victory. So, what exactly is on the line Saturday in Columbia? For the second straight season, Baylor takes its six-game winning streak up against the Gamecocks, which are 6-0 at home this season. The Bears also looking to extend its seven-game non-conference road winning streak, which started Dec. 19, 2007...with a 92-84 win at South Carolina. By the way, Baylor is 1-0 at Colonial Life Arena.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: SOUTH CAROLINA
RECENT ROAD SUCCESS AROUND THE SEC
JANUARY NOT AS KIND TO THE BEARS
NON-CONFERENCE ROAD WARRIORS
BAYLOR CLIMBS TO FIFTH IN RIVALS.COM'S BIG 12 RANKINGS
11 DAYS DOWN, TWO MORE TO GO
Rebounding Margin One of the Differences in 2009-10
Happy New Year!
For the third consecutive season, Baylor is 10-1 under head coach Scott Drew. Not many teams in the nation can say that...And while Baylor's scoring average has fallen off a bit from this time last season (81.2 ppg in 2008-09 to 78.1 ppg in 2009-10), there is one dramatic difference - rebounding margin.
This season, Baylor is outrebounding its opponents by a +11.4 margin. That's a difference of +10.7 from last season (Baylor was +0.7 in margin this time last season) and +7.5 from 2007-08 (Baylor was +3.9 in margin).
Through games Dec. 20, Baylor ranked second in the nation (+12.0) in rebounding margin behind only Tulsa (+13.7). Baylor is also second in both rebounding and rebounding defense in the Big 12. The Bears lead the Big 12 in rebounding margin through 11 games.
It's a new year and a new decade, so let's review the previous 10 Days of Baylor Basketball:
10. Dec. 31, 2009 - Baylor All-Decade Teams
We have a good feeling about the next 10 years and beyond for Baylor basketball.