NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Predictions: 3. Baylor vs. 10. Xavier

By: Kels Dayton

 Baylor (29-7, Big Twelve)

Brady Heslip knocked down nine threes in Baylor's win over Colorado. (AP Photo/Matt York)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Baylor got an all-time performance from guard Brady Heslip, who drained nine threes and became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in the Bears’ win over Colorado in round three. The Bears also took out South Dakota State in the Round of 64, in a hard-fought game.

BURNING-RETINA QUESTION: Will anyone’s eyes survive if Baylor reaches the Final Four? Seriously, I can’t evenm seer thw comptr screen rigfht nw. Adidas probably thinks their new unis are “so fresh,” but really, they’re stale. Baylor might as well re-name itself the “Fighting Highlighters”. The team is 2-0 with their color spectrum-defying unis, but as CBS’ Charles Barkley said, “You have to play good if you’re going to wear those.”

KEYS TO WINNING THE REGION: Other than blinding opponents with their ridiculously bright uniforms, Baylor is going to have to play with the look of a cohesive team. Too many times the Bears have relied on individual talent, of which they have plenty, rather than playing smarter than its opponents and doing all of the little things it takes to win basketball games. Senior Quincy Acy is the one exception to that, as he has been the team’s glue guy all season. Still, Perry Jones III and the rest of this star-studded lineup needs to learn how to make the extra pass, slide over correctly on a defensive rotation, play the screen-and-roll effectively, and dive for a 50/50 loose ball even if it means losing all of your elbow skin in the process. Those are the types of plays that win championships in basketball, and Baylor just hasn’t made them consistently enough–yet.

X-FACTOR: Brady Heslip. How could it be anyone else? The man knocked down nine threes against Colorado and single-handedly turned a very close, hotly contested game into a Baylor blowout. If he can catch fire again, the Bears stand a good chance of challenging Kentucky.

Mighty-mite guard Pierre Jackson has been spectacular for Baylor this season. (AP Photo)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Baylor’s talent is too much for Xavier, as one of the studs on the best AAU squad in the country (outside of Kentucky) steps up big. The Bears get a break as Indiana upsets Kentucky again, and the Bears overpower the Hoosiers on the way to New Orleans.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Baylor slips by Xavier and is then summarily pummeled by Kentucky, which is every bit as talented as the Bears–and plays just a little bit more like a smart basketball team.

CHANCE TO WIN REGION: 18%. This is a talented team, but it looks as though Kentucky is a little bit better in every area. The Bears could give the Wildcats their biggest challenge on the way to the Final Four, but in the end, Big Blue is just too strong.


10   Xavier (23-12, Atlantic 10)

Terrell "Tu" Holloway is a big-time player for Xavier. (AP Photo)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Xavier benefited from an almost unbelievable amount of breaks to reach the Sweet 16 for the fifth time since 2004. First, they were the beneficiary of an absurd lane violation call against Notre Dame in the second-round game, which occured with 2 seconds left and the Irish bidding to tie the game at the free throw line. Then, the referees added insult to injustice by calling an intentional foul on the ensuing inbounds. Really??? What was this, a Dick Bavetta officiating clinic? If that weren’t enough, the Musketeers benefited from an all-time shocker, as 15th-seeded Lehigh stunned Duke and allowed Xavier to rock the home jerseys as a 10-seed in the Round of 32. Amazing that they even brought those with them to Greensboro.

BURNING QUESTION: Has ‘X’ reclaimed its pre-brawl mojo? Xavier had very high preseason expectations with All-American candidate guard Terrell “Tu” Holloway coming back, but were knocked off track when a mid-season brawl with Cincinnati forced six player suspensions. The Musketeers began the season 8-0 and ranked No. 7 in the nation, but went just 13-12 after the brawl. Now, Xavier finds itself in the Sweet 16.

KEYS TO WINNING THE REGION: Someone else is going to have to knock out Kentucky. It just doesn’t seem likely that this team can compete with the Wildcats and all of their talent for forty minutes. Anyone else in the region is beatable. But Kentucky….ehhh….no.

X-FACTOR: Kenny Frease.  He caught fire against Lehigh, torching the Mountain Hawks for a career-high 25 points on 11 of 13 shooting. If he can continue that production, Xavier could advance to the Elite Eight.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Tu Holloway has the game of his life in leading a now-clicking Xavier squad to an upset win over Baylor. Indiana knocks out Kentucky, and the Musketeers ride Holloway to another stunning win and a first-ever trip to the Final Four.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Baylor has too many athletes, and wears Xavier down in the second half of the regional semifinal. ‘X’ doesn’t give it to anybody.

CHANCE TO WIN REGION: 3%. Too many things would have to fall perfectly in place, but then, that’s what happened over the first weekend. It would be an incredible story, but that’s mostly because it is so unlikely.


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