Baylor, Iowa State coaches feel pressure to defend conference reputation

Posted Saturday, Mar. 22, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
A

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

After posting the nation’s best nonconference winning percentage of any Division I league, Big 12 teams have been a hit-and-miss proposition in the NCAA Tournament.

The league, which landed more teams in the field than any other conference (seven), has a 4-4 record in the Big Dance and is down to three contenders to cut down the nets when the Final Four comes to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, April 5-7.

Two of those contenders, Baylor (25-11) and Iowa State (27-7), are part of Sunday’s doubleheader at AT&T Center.

Iowa State meets perennial power North Carolina (4:15 p.m., KTVT/Ch. 11) and must play without standout forward Georges Niang, who suffered a season-ending fractured foot in Friday’s 93-75 victory over North Carolina Central. Baylor, the No. 6 seed in the West Regional, meets Creighton, the No. 3 seed (6:45 p.m, truTV).

Coaches from both teams stressed Saturday that they feel compelled to boost the Big 12’s national reputation in high-profile matchups.

“No question,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Both of us, when you’re in the round of 32, you’re playing the best teams in the country. We know that postseason is important for every conference.”

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said: “Our conference all year has been great. It was a grind to get through, but it helps prepare you for the moment that we’re in now.”

Playing short-handed

Iowa State coaches and players said they are capable of advancing in the NCAA Tournament without Niang (16.7 ppg, 4.5 rebounds), who suffered a season-ending foot injury in Friday’s victory over North Carolina Central. ISU won two games this season without forward Melvin Ejim, the Big 12 player of the year, and the Cyclones plan to draw on that experience against North Carolina.

“When Melvin went down, we still found a way to win games,” guard DeAndre Kane said. “We have other guys that can step in and take the place of Georges.”

Ejim said: “Guys know that basketball is a game of adjustments. This is an adjustment we’ll have to make.”

It will not be easy. Niang, a sophomore, ranked third on the team in scoring, third in total assists (123) and fourth in rebounds (4.5 avg.). Coach Fred Hoiberg said he was not sure who would start in Niang’s spot and plans to be flexible as the game unfolds.

“The important thing is making the proper adjustments,” Hoiburg said. “If it’s working, or not working, you try to get the right five on the floor where you can compete.”

Big moment

Creighton players talked openly about the significance of reaching the Sweet 16 by beating Baylor after the team fell short at this same juncture the past two NCAA tournaments. For the senior-laden Bluejays, led by forward Doug McDermott (27.0 ppg), Sunday’s game looms as a career litmus test in many ways.

“It’s always been a goal of ours,” McDermott said of a Sweet 16 appearance. “We haven’t gotten there yet as a program, so that’s something that’s in the back of my mind. We’re finally to this point again, where we’ve been the last two years, and it was a big part of my decision [to return for his senior season].”

Briefly

• Baylor, at 16-3, has the nation’s best postseason winning percentage (.842) over the last six seasons.

• Baylor is 0-3 all-time against Creighton. Iowa State is 0-3 against North Carolina.

• A likely candidate to crack the Iowa State starting lineup in place of injured Niang, a starter in the team’s first 34 games, is guard Naz Long. A starter in seven games this season, Long has a 57.9 shooting percentage from 3-point range in his last five games.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?





Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
Chicago «109Final | Box
Boston102
Golden State «106Final | Box
Charlotte101
New Orleans91Final | Box
Atlanta «100
Milwaukee «104Final | Box
Detroit88
Dallas «106Final | Box
Toronto102
LA Clippers «102Final | Box
Houston85
Orlando83Final | Box
Indiana «98
New York78Final | Box
Oklahoma City «105
Sacramento104Final | Box
San Antonio «112
Phoenix904th Qtr 2:59 | Box
Denver118TV: FSN-AZ, Altitude
Memphis523rd Qtr | Box
Portland43TV: SPSO, CSN-NW
Minnesota292nd Qtr 7:10 | Box
LA Lakers37TV: FSN-N, TWC SN
Full Scoreboard
Week 13Full Scoreboard
Thursday
Chicago17Final | Box
Detroit «34Gridiron Replay
Philadelphia «33Final | Box
Dallas10Gridiron Replay
Seattle «19Final | Box
San Francisco3Gridiron Replay
Sunday
San Diego 1:00 PM ET
Baltimore TV: CBS
Cleveland 1:00 PM ET
Buffalo TV: CBS
Tennessee 1:00 PM ET
Houston TV: CBS
Washington 1:00 PM ET
Indianapolis TV: FOX
NY Giants 1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville TV: FOX
Carolina 1:00 PM ET
Minnesota TV: FOX
New Orleans 1:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: FOX
Oakland 1:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: CBS
Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: CBS
Arizona 4:05 PM ET
Atlanta TV: FOX
New England 4:25 PM ET
Green Bay TV: CBS
Denver 8:30 PM ET
Kansas City TV: NBC
Monday
Miami 8:30 PM ET
NY Jets TV: ESPN
Full Scoreboard
Friday, November 28Full Scoreboard
NY Rangers «3Final | Box
Philadelphia0
Chicago «4Final | Box
Anaheim1
NY Islanders2Final | Box
Washington «5
Winnipeg1Final(OT) | Box
Boston «2
Montreal1Final | Box
Buffalo «2
Detroit «5Final(SO) | Box
New Jersey4
Carolina «4Final | Box
Pittsburgh2
Vancouver «5Final | Box
Columbus0
Ottawa2Final | Box
Florida «3
Edmonton3Final(OT) | Box
St. Louis «4
Minnesota5OT 2:56 | Box
Dallas4TV: FSN-N+, FSN-SW+
Full Scoreboard