4 things Baylor said ahead of Thursday’s NCAA Tournament opener with Syracuse

first_img Published on March 20, 2019 at 9:10 pm Contact Billy: [email protected] | @Wheyen3 Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img SALT LAKE CITY — Baylor (19-13, 10-8 Big 12) has lost its four March games heading into an NCAA Tournament opener against Syracuse (20-13, 10-8 Atlantic Coast) on Thursday. The Bears had done enough earlier in the year to make it to March Madness, though, and they’ll pose a threat at 9:57 p.m. on Thursday at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Here’s what Baylor is saying heading into that matchup. Passing on experienceBaylor only returned three scholarship players from a year ago to this season’s roster, meaning that many of the Bears haven’t had NCAA Tournament experience. That’s not true of guards Makai Mason and King McClure.Mason actually was the point guard for a Yale team that upset Baylor in the NCAA Tournament three years ago. McClure played on the 2016 and 2017 Bears teams that made the dance. They’re trying to use that experience to help their younger teammates. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Last year we were in NIT, it is not a good experience,” McClure said. “So the fact we are here is a huge blessing. So I tell all the younger guys: Enjoy the moment and be happy. Play with joy. When you go out there, don’t worry about the crowd. Do everything you did coming in here to win.”Baylor head coach Scott Drew echoed that message. He added that he thought being able to play in the Big 12 tournament first would make the environment seem less large. “The first time you got the police escort, everybody isn’t looking around like, What’s going on?” Drew said.Zone v. zoneSyracuse’s players and head coach Jim Boeheim answered similar questions to the one posed to Scott Drew: What’s it like to head into a matchup with another team that plays the 2-3 zone?Drew was quick to point out that just like with man-to-man defenses, each team can have their own wrinkles. But he did add that most 2-3 zones have the same couple weak spots.“We know where they are and they know where they are and probably both teams are more comfortable playing against a zone,” Drew said.Drew brought up SU’s length soon after. He said that the first time some of his past teams have played against zones with that much length, it’s been an issue. “That’s really tough for teams that see that length for the first time,” Drew said. “And that’s why Syracuse has got a top 25 defense in the country.”Howard’s absenceDrew and his players both learned of Frank Howard’s absence shortly before taking to the interview dais. Both of their responses included something along the lines of: Syracuse will still play the 2-3 zone.But beyond that, they expected SU’s depth to come in handy. Drew referenced times during the Big 12 season when players were surprise scratches and Baylor had to adjust to a slightly different rotation as being something that could prepare the Bears for this.Buddy Boeheim could remain in a starting role with Howard back, and Mason seemed to allude to him in his answer.“They have got some really talented guards off the bench that will step up,” Mason said. “(Howard) is a great player. They have some great players on the bench, so it won’t change much for us.”Drew’s first game as a head coachScott Drew made his head-coaching debut in charge of Valparaiso on Nov. 24, 2002. He played Syracuse and Carmelo Anthony in the Carrier Dome. With five minutes to go, the game was close.“I was thinking, ‘Is this head coaching stuff really that hard?’” Drew recalled Wednesday.Syracuse pulled away to win by 15, Anthony scored 28 and Drew had his answer.“The last five minutes told me why the profession is so difficult,” Drew said.That season, of course, ended in Boeheim’s only national championship. Drew and Valparaiso considered themselves fans the rest of the way.“The good thing is Syracuse won the National Championship that year and we got to cheer for them the rest of the year,” Drew said.last_img

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