Pierre Jackson

Baylor too much for Iowa in comfortable NIT title game victory

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For some teams a trip to the Postseason NIT is viewed as a punishment of sorts, and those teams tend to see their seasons end in quick fashion.

For others the 32-team tournament offers a second chance of sorts, an opportunity to play more games with an eye towards next season while also chasing a championship. Both Baylor and Iowa fall into this category, but with the NIT crown on the line Thursday night at Madison Square Garden there was a clear disparity between the two teams.

Cory Jefferson (23 points, eight rebounds) and Isaiah Austin (15 points, nine rebounds) combined to shoot 14-of-18 from the field, and Pierre Jackson added 17 points and ten assists to lead the Bears to the 74-54 victory. Jackson finishes his Baylor career with double-doubles in four straight games.

With the victory the Bears won their first-ever Postseason NIT title, and the Hawkeyes struggled with Baylor’s length and athleticism on both ends of the floor. Baylor shot 54.2% from the field on the night, making 22 of their 34 two-point field goal attempts (64.7%).

By comparison Iowa shot just 26.5% from the field, making 13 of their 44 shots (29.5%) inside of the arc. Baylor’s big men certainly didn’t block every shot (seven blocks; five by Austin) in the paint but they did manage to change a number of Iowa’s looks, and in some cases the mere thought of a Baylor big man being nearby resulted in the Hawkeyes being hesitant to take those shots.

Aaron White (12 points) and Mike Gesell (ten points) were the lone Hawkeyes to reach double figures, but despite the poor outing the future looks bright for Fran McCaffery’s program. Outside of Eric May the Hawkeyes are due to return their entire rotation, and the addition of players such as Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff and incoming freshman Peter Jok will help from a depth standpoint.

As for Scott Drew’s Bears there are some significant personnel issues to address, with the graduation of Jackson and Austin’s NBA prospects (he’s projected to be a lottery pick) being the biggest ones.

Jackson’s departure will mean more minutes for L.J. Rose, a highly touted guard who didn’t see a great amount of playing time as a freshman, and their 2013 recruiting class is strong with wing Ishmail Wainright and center Dominic Woodson leading the way.

In most cases a deep Postseason NIT run can serve as a springboard into the following season (of course last year’s champion, Stanford, struggled with inconsistency and ended up back in the NIT this season). Baylor and Iowa both hope this will be the case in 2013-14.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEO: Duke’s Grayson Allen beats No. 7 Virginia at the buzzer

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.