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Baylor Basketball

Familiarity aside, Scott Drew won't take Sweet 16 lightly

March 23, 2017
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As Ish Wainwright and Jake Lindsey fielded questions from the media Wednesday morning about their upcoming Sweet 16 matchup with South Carolina, Baylor head basketball coach Scott Drew stepped into the room for his round of questions about a team that is coached by Frank Martin, a familiar face for Drew.

Elizabeth Sherman, SicEm365 Scott Drew heads to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time as a head coach.
Instead of sitting idly, Drew pulled up a chair at a back table and dug into the scouting report to prep for the Gamecocks all while Wainwright was waxing poetic about his coach within an earshot of the man who is headed to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time since 2010.

Drew didn’t look up. He kept his nose in the book and kept it there until his players wrapped up their visit.

It was then Drew's turn. He took 15 minutes out of his day to talk with the media before casually moving back to the table he left his book, making one more note before heading to practice.

You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Drew and someone studying for their neuroscience final at Moody Library. The only difference being that Drew has already studied Martin while he was at Kansas State from 2007 to 2012

With the two coaches’ familiarity with each other having five years together in conference and twice in the past three years, the game should turn into a chess match as they look to anticipate each other’s known moves that Drew has been studying.

Baylor defeated South Carolina at home in November of 2013 and then again on the road in November of 2014. The two victories were by a combined six points.

“Just having played him and knowing what in our offense, what in our defense works, where they try to exploit us,” Drew said about looking at previous Kansas State footage. “Every coach can adjust what they do based on their talent level and personnel.”

For Martin, he’s fine-tuned his team into one of the top defenses in the nation thanks to its affinity for the press, something Martin shares in common with his former boss Bob Huggins at KSU. Drew said that most of South Carolina’s pressure comes in the half court opposed to the full court press West Virginia employs, but the challenge remains the same, especially with the team’s size across the board.

“It definitely makes it tougher in the half court when they try to deny every pass and make it very difficult to to run any offense,” Drew said. “Now you’re playing one-on-one basketball. When you get in the paint and you’ve got a bunch of 6-5, 6-6 guys with length either guarding you or coming over to help and then two bigs that come over to help, it just makes it more difficult.”

SicEm365 Wainright could be tasked with guarding Thornwell on Friday evening
Wainwright and Lindsey agreed with that analysis looking at how difficult it is to play against guards that physically could play in the front court. That includes the SEC Player of the Year, senior guard Sindarius Thornwell who averaged 2.4 steals against SEC competition.

Not only did Thornwell help the Gamecocks lead the SEC in takeaways, he also made use of his steals by putting up over 21 points per game.

In the two tournament games, Thornwell has a combined 53 points while shooting 50 percent from three-point range which puts a great responsibility on Baylor’s backcourt to contain him.

A player like Thornwell and his ability to dominate is a big reason why analysts see Martin’s team as the more likely candidate to book a flight to Phoenix next week, questioning Baylor’s depth. But when most teams are getting weaker with mounting injuries, Baylor is only getting healthier and putting out more production from its bench than before.

“We’re getting healthy and that we haven’t gotten selfish,” Drew said about what their first and second-round games in Tulsa taught him about his team last week.

“You hear that phrase ‘pressure burst pipes.’ Sometimes the bigger the moment, the more that that can leave you. But the great teams stay true to who you are and how they got there. That’s what we’ve done all year and that’s why we’ve been able to have so many comeback wins.”

Even the most renowned of experts seem to forget that this team was once renowned for its comebacks having overcome over 20 points against a top-tier Louisville team. Baylor also came back after halftime against fellow Sweet 16 team Xavier and won by 15 points. Those games were because of players like King McClure stepping up at the right time.

SicEm365 Terry Maston has averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds in two NCAA Tournament games.

The same can be said in the tournament as the team’s depth is running on all cylinders with Al Freeman having his shining moment against New Mexico State, McClure stepping up against Southern California, and Terry Maston, the one constant in Baylor's first two tournament games.

While Johnathan Motley has averaged a double-double and Manu Lecomte was the team’s hero against the Trojans, Maston’s impact has been beyond remarkable if not unexpected with 19 points and nine boards per game.

“What I’ve been really proud of is he’s done a great job rebounding,” Drew said. “His defense has been really good, he’s been a good teammate.”

As long as there is play in the same fashion which helped the Bears climb to No. 1 a couple months ago, there’s a clear path to the Final Four that should remind everyone else this team isn’t just blessed by its schedule but deserving in its own right.
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Familiarity aside, Scott Drew won't take Sweet 16 lightly

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