S. Dakota St.-Baylor Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 14, 2012
South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy isn't thrilled with the one TV analyst bold enough to pick his Jackrabbits to upset Baylor in their inaugural NCAA tournament appearance. Sure, there's plenty of room on the Jackrabbits' bandwagon, but Nagy cringed when Seth Davis proclaimed on the CBS Selection show that the 14th-seeded Jackrabbits were his choice to pull off a big upset when they meet the third-seeded Bears Thursday at the Pit. ''Well, Seth didn't help us there,'' Nagy said. ''It was nice of him to say, but that doesn't help us, and Baylor doesn't need any extra incentive to stick it to us.'' Sure, Davis was stirring up the pot a little, but he had sound reasons: the Jackrabbits (27-7) have of the nation's most unheralded point guards in Nate Wolters, who led them to a rout of Washington in December, and an envious three-point shooting percentage (39.3) while the aggressive, athletic Bears (27-7) have shown a soft underbelly at times. ''All that stuff is prediction anyway. We just know that,'' Nagy said. ''But we have 27 wins for a reason. We haven't played the schedule Baylor has, I know that. And if we did, we wouldn't have 27 wins. But we still have a good basketball team, and we're here just like everybody else is to win, and that's the way we're going to approach it. ''All the predictions and things like that really don't mean anything anyways. It's just fun banter for people to talk about.'' The Bears dismissed Davis' prediction. ''I really couldn't care less about what he had to say. I just see it as another person stating an opinion, but he just happened to be on TV,'' junior guard Pierre Jackson said. ''I just know me and my teammates are ready to play.'' ''Anything can happen in this tournament,'' Baylor senior forward Quincy Acy suggested. ''I mean, they wouldn't be in this tournament if they weren't capable of beating us. We wouldn't look at it as an upset.'' That's why they're preparing like they're facing another Big 12 team, not a first-timer in the NCAA field. ''We're focused on trying to get this win. We're not taking any team for granted,'' Acy said. ''We don't look at seeds or anything like that. Every team is capable of winning on every given night, and we're going to go out and play Baylor basketball for 40 minutes.'' Wolters, on the other hand, is embracing the Cinderella talk. ''It's a good opportunity for us,'' he said. ''We're the 14 seed, so not many people expect us to win. So we have to play loose with nothing to lose.'' Senior guard Griffan Callahan said everyone knew the Jackrabbits would face a tough draw after reaching their first NCAA tournament by rallying from 12 down in the second half against Western Illinois in the Summit League title game. So, when they saw Baylor's name, they embraced the challenge. ''We're looking forward to it,'' Callahan said. ''Fourteen seed, whatever we got, we were going to be happy with. We're just going to go out there and play and do our best.'' The great equalizer could very well be the three-point line. The Bears pride themselves on Canadian Brady Heslip's long-range prowess, even using the moniker ''Brady range'' for his 3-pointers that he fires up from all over the court and usually well beyond the arc. He's made 84 of 193 attempts for a 43.5 percent clip, third-best in the nation. The Jackrabbits might just be able to keep up with the Bears from long range because they have a roster full of sharpshooters like Heslip. ''Yeah, they've all got Brady range,'' Heslip said. ''No, they can definitely really shoot the ball. They've got four guys over 40 percent, and their point guard's capable of making 3s, too. So we're just going to have to guard the three point-line better than we've guarded it all year.'' Callahan led the Jackrabbits with 75 3-pointers, followed by Jordan Dykstra (51), Brayden Carlson (46), Chad White (45) and Wolters (32). ''They definitely have range,'' Baylor coach Scott Drew said. ''Doesn't matter if it's the college line or NBA line, they can shoot from anywhere.'' Dykstra sank 48.6 percent of his long-range jumpers, Carlson 46.9 percent, White 46.4 percent and Callahan 40.5 percent. ''Well, it's had to be'' a big part of the Jackrabbits' offense, Nagy said. ''We're not a huge team, but we do shoot the ball well. When we do shoot the ball well, then it really opens up the floor for Nate, our point guard, because it puts a lot of pressure on teams to have to take away the three. When they have to take away the three then Nate is able to get it. ''I've coached Nate for three years, and I haven't really seen anybody that can stay in front of him. But our guys around him are going to have to play great, and Nate's going to have to trust those guys because he's become more and more the focus of teams.'' The Bears are brimming with talent. The seniors on the team were part of the group that lost to eventual champion Duke in an NCAA regional final their sophomore season. And they're part of a renaissance from scandal at the school, which has turned into a hotbed for recruiting across several sports with the successes of Robert Griffith III in football and Brittney Griner in women's hoops. ''They know who we are now. We can go to the local grocery store and they recognize you from pictures and stuff like that,'' Acy said. ''So it's what our mindset was coming in, to try to put this program on the map. Everybody in every sport has done it, so it feels good to say you're a part of Baylor.'' Even if Seth Davis dares to pick against them. --- Reach AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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