Baylor minding Ps and Qs into the NCAA tournament
WACO, Texas (AP)
Baylor is minding its Ps and Qs.
There's Perry, Pierre and two big Quincys - Acy, who has played more games for the Bears than anyone, and standout freshman Miller.
They are the top four scorers and all average in double figures for the Bears (27-7), who can match the school record for victories by winning their NCAA tournament opener Thursday against South Dakota State.
''You look at our balance,'' Bears coach Scott Drew said. ''This team has been unselfish all year, have really enjoyed one another, and it's evident in how they share the ball.''
Perry Jones III, a projected NBA lottery pick before deciding to return for his sophomore season, leads the team with 14 points and 7.7 rebounds a game and is having one of his best stretches. The 6-foot-11 forward has four double-doubles the last five games. He scored a career-best 31 points in the opener of the Big 12 tournament, which he missed last year because of an NCAA suspension.
Pierre Jackson (13.3 ppg, 5.8 assists per game) was the nation's top junior college player last season. The point guard from Las Vegas took over as Baylor's starter midway through the season with his fast pace, impressive passes that initially caught his new teammates off guard and the ability to score when necessary.
''Pierre Jackson to me is the biggest key. ... the other three are terrific, but you know Pierre is going to have the ball in his hands and he has to get the ball to the other three,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said. ''When Perry and Quincy Miller are making shots and stretching the defense a little bit and being able to isolate the post, that makes it extremely hard, and Quincy Acy is one of my favorite players in the league.
''He's just been a great force for them,'' Self said. ''I'll be glad when he finally gets out of here because it seems like he's been down there forever.''
Acy has played in a school-record 135 games and made 60 percent of his field goals, half of those made baskets being dunks. The 6-foot-7 senior and vocal leader, who like Jones is from the Dallas area, is averaging 11.8 points and 7.2 rebounds this season.
''Words can explain how great a leader he is. On the court, off the court,'' Miller said. ''I just thought he was dunks, but he's got more than that. Way more than that.''
Miller is a Chicago kid whose senior prep season at Westchester Country Day in North Carolina was cut short by a torn ACL. The 6-foot-9 forward with a crushing handshake averages 11.1 points a game and has four 20-point games as a Bears freshman.
''We all come from different backgrounds. Quincy Miller was a phenomenal scorer in high school. He saw the ball on almost every possession. Pierre led his team to the JUCO championship,'' Acy said. ''It just says a lot about the guys to come together and sacrifice some of their habits for the betterment of the team. Pierre's become more of a pass-first point guard and he scores when he needs to. Quincy Miller's even shown that he has great passing ability.''
The Bears also have Brady Heslip, the Canadian sophomore transfer from Boston College who averages 9.6 points a game. The long-shooting threat has made 108 field goals, 84 of them 3-pointers.
Acy, Anthony Jones and Fred Ellis make up the winningest senior class in Baylor history with 97 wins.
That includes two years ago when the Bears also made it to the NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed and won a school-record 28 games. That season ended with a regional final loss to eventual national champion Duke in San Antonio, about three hours from the Waco campus.
They opened the 2010 NCAA tournament in New Orleans, the site of this year's Final Four.
The Bears will play South Dakota State (27-7) in Albuquerque, N.M. If they win two games there, the second weekend of games in the South Region will be in Atlanta.
Perry Jones III missed the Big 12 tournament last year when the NCAA upheld a six-game suspension for accepting improper benefits before he got to Baylor. Since the Bears lost that tournament opener, then didn't get an NCAA or NIT invitation with an 18-13 record, Jones had to sit out the first five games this season after opting against early entry into the NBA draft.
In last week's Big 12 tournament, Jones followed up his 31 points and 11 rebounds against Kansas State with 18 points and seven rebounds in a win over Kansas, and 16 points with 11 boards in a semifinal loss to Missouri.
''I think throughout the year he's received a lot of negativity and at the same time I think as we've all shared with him, he's a positive kid,'' Drew said during the Big 12 tournament. ''He's one of those guys that the more you build them up, the better he is.''
As long as the Bears stick to all their Ps and Qs, they should OK.