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Baylor vs. Xavier Preview

Baylor and Xavier head to Atlanta for a juicy Sweet 16 duel in the Georgia Dome.

Baylor Bears guard Brady Heslip was on fire in a 3rd round win vs. Colorado. Heslip rained in nine 3-point shots to lead the Bears to the Sweet 16.
Baylor Bears guard Brady Heslip was on fire in a 3rd round win vs. Colorado. Heslip rained in nine 3-point shots to lead the Bears to the Sweet 16.

After a 17-0 start then a fall back to earth with five Big 12 losses the Baylor Bears looked they were just an average team that may win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Well the Bears have silenced the doubters and have won two tournament games to secure a spot in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons. The one great thing about this super athletic Bears team led by senior Quincy Acy is that they haven't had a "bad" loss all season.

The Bears have lost only seven games all season and all of their losses have been to teams that made the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Baylor has won seven of their last nine games and their two NCAA Tourney wins have come by a combined 25 points. #3 Baylor heads to the Sweet 16 after a 68-60 win in a hard fought game vs. a scrappy #14 South Dakota State team in the 2nd round and a 80-63 win over former Big 12 team #11 seed Colorado in the 3rd round.

#10 Xavier is no SDSU or Colorado, but better. The Musketeers are headed to the Sweet 16for the fourth time in the last five seasons and are led by NBA talent with the likes of Tu Holloway. The senior point guard Holloway is averaging 17.4 points per game to go with 4.9 assists on the season. He may be their best player, but the X-Factor (pun intended) for the Musketeers is big man Kenny Frease (35 points and 15 rebounds in two NCAA Tournament wins).

Frease will have to battle the likes of Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Acy in the paint while banging and bruising to get a double-double. Frease needs a big game vs. the Bears having scored in double-figures in seven of his last nine games.

What got Baylor to this point is their athleticism and shooting with Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip on the perimeter. Heslip had the game of his life against Colorado as he drained nine of 12 shots from 3-point range for 27 points. Jackson will need to push the tempo and make Holloway work on defense. The Baylor point guard has scored in double-figures in eight of his last nine games including a double-double (15 points and 10 assists) vs. Colorado.

Look for a high-scoring game from both teams as the winner heads to the Elite 8. Baylor went to the Elite 8 in 2010 and lost to eventual champion Duke. Well #2 Duke was bounced this season by #15 Lehigh in a major upset in the second round on Friday. The Bears have avoided the Blue Devils in the next round, but if the Bears win a potential match-up with #1 overall seed Kentucky is looming with a shot at the Final Four on the line.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.