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2013 Postseason NIT: BYU Cougars VS Baylor Bears

The good news: BYU Cougars will get a rematch at home of their earlier season loss to Scott Drew's crew. The bad news: Baylor is playing better now than they were then.

Jonathan Daniel

Way back on the Friday before Christmas, Brigham Young hit the road after a laugher against Eastern New Mexico to face the Baylor Bears, and they hit the ground running, to the tune of a 9-2 run. Unfortunately, they let the Bears go on a 15-2 run to close the first half, and then another 9-0 run in the second half, and before you knew it Baylor was up 20 and coasting to a win.

Brandon Davies finished with an impressive 26 points and 17 rebounds, in large part because of his 11 free throws, and Tyler Haws was the only other Cougar in double figures with 13 points - none of which came in the second half. The shots, what few good looks they got, were not falling, and they were never able to truly close the gap (especially since Davies scored almost all of their points in the last eight minutes.

The good news for the Cougars is that since then, especially in the postseason, their offense has come to life. Davies has remained his steady self, while Haws has upped his game to average 26 points a tilt in the post-season. Matt Carlino has come back to life and been a consistent all-around threat, averaging 16.5 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists in that same span. Brock Zylstra had come to life with 37 points the last two games on the strength of 53% three-point shooting. The Cougar Offense Machine is back.

The bad news is, while the Cougars have indeed upped their offensive efficiency, they aren't necessarily playing better overall. They've been the beneficiary of teams that struggle to defend the long range shot, and who are not cohesively athletic enough to make comebacks once those threes start falling.

The worse news is that Baylor's offense has also become even more efficient since their 79-64 win over BYU, to the point that it resembles an absolute juggernaut. Consider the following:

~Brady Heslip, the Bears' resident sniper (literally - he has 20 two point shots in the last 23 games) went 4-for-24 in Baylor's last five games including the Big 12 tournament... and has shot 56% from long range during the NIT to get a quaint 16 points per game.

~Pierre Jackson, the senior point guard and leader of this offense, has gotten better at everything but shooting threes; look at the following uptick in his line:

  • Regular Season: 18.7 ppg, 6.5 apg, 42% FG, 77% FT
  • Post-season: 23.0 ppg, 9.6 apg, 49% FG, 87% FT
~Cory Jefferson, essentially the Bears' answer to Brandon Davies, has a similar trend in his numbers:
  • Regular Season: 11.7 ppg, 57% FG
  • Post-Season: 19.5 ppg, 73% FG.
And that doesn't even take into consideration the battle of the Austins, where 6'11" Nate (BYU) has to try and contend with 7'1" Isaiah (Baylor) down low, a big kid who is getting better by the game.

Whether it's Jackson and Carlino, Jefferson and Davies, Heslip and Zylstra, or even Austin and Austin, it appears that the Bears are a little bit more talented and a little bit more consistent than the Cougars at every position. I expect this meeting to go a lot like the first one, so we can wave goodbye to another West Coast Conference team tonight.