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, images, internet links 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?





Wednesday, July 30Full Scoreboard
Philadelphia2Final | Box
NY Mets «11
Milwaukee «5Final | Box
Tampa Bay0
Arizona «5Final | Box
Cincinnati4
Washington «4Final | Box
Miami3
Oakland1Final | Box
Houston «8
Pittsburgh5Final | Box
San Francisco «7
LA Angels3Final | Box
Baltimore «4
Seattle0Final | Box
Cleveland «2
Chicago WSox2Final | Box
Detroit «7
Toronto «6Final | Box
Boston1
Colorado «6Final(10) | Box
Chicago Cubs4
NY Yankees2Final | Box
Texas «3
Minnesota2Final | Box
Kansas City «3
Atlanta2Top 10th | Box
Los Angeles2@theBallpark | TV: SPSO, SportsNet LA
St. Louis1Top 9th | Box
San Diego12@theBallpark | TV: FSN-MW, FSN-SD
Full Scoreboard
Wednesday, July 30Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard
Wednesday, July 30Full Scoreboard
No games today
Full Scoreboard