The four/five matchup of the Big 12 Championship — or for that matter any conference tournament — doesn’t usually consist of a team that’s been ranked in the top 10 of the country for most of the season.
But Baylor, the No. 4 seed, at 25-6 overall, has been a top-10 team for the bulk of the year. The Bears, who play fifth-seeded Kansas State tomorrow in an 11:30 a.m. tipoff at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., are ranked 12th in the country and have one of the most talented rosters in the nation.
So the simple fact that the Bears, who split the season series with K-State, are the four seed speaks volumes for the quality of teams in the Big 12.
“That should tell you just how good the league is,” K-State head coach Frank Martin said. “Look at who they’ve beaten in the nonconference slate. They’re real good, then all of a sudden they lose a couple of games in league play and they’ve got a problem. They don’t have a problem, they’re still real good. They can be in a Final Four like that. The difference is our league is real good and the other teams are real good.”
Baylor possesses one of the most balanced groups of starters in the country. Four of the five starters average 11 points or more, while Brady Heslip is averaging 9.3 points per game to round out the group.
Pierre Jackson, the Bears’ point guard, drives the Baylor offense, averaging 13.5 points and 5.6 assists per game. Quincy Acy, a 6-foot-7 senior, is a grown man in the paint, averaging 12.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. And then there’s the two high-profile recruits out of high school — Perry Jones III, a sophomore averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds, and Quincy Miller, a freshman who is averaging 11.5 points and five rebounds per game.
“I think Quincy Acy is the heart of their team. That young man there, talk about a guy who plays every play and he’s been doing it for four years now,” Martin said. “Pierre Jackson obviously has the ball in his hands, and he’s been a huge difference on their team from a year ago. Quincy Miller is as talented a freshman as we’ve had in the league, maybe with the exception of (Michael) Beasley, (Kevin) Durant, Blake Griffin. Obviously Perry Jones is a big-time talent. I think he gets a raw deal. I think he’s an unbelievable kid who plays the game the right way, I don’t think he plays it for selfish reasons.”
And because of that depth, talent and balance, the Bears won’t be much fun to deal with on Thursday.
“I’d tell you what they are but I can’t use that word in this interview: They’re a pain in the you know what to prepare for because they’re so good,” Martin said. “They get a raw deal as a team. People say they’re inconsistent. No they’re not that. It just means our league is that good, because they’re that good. They’re as good as it gets across the country.”