Baylor may be the least popular team in the country tomorrow afternoon.
And contrary to what Baylor fans will believe, that fact has nothing to do with their head coach wouldn’t win many popularity contests or that their team spent the majority of the season folding when they were faced with an elite opponent.
It will, however, have everything to do with the fact that the team they are playing — No. 1 seed Kentucky — just so happens to be the heated in-state rival of Louisville, their would-be opponent in the Final Four. That’s the game that everyone wants to see. Those are the stories that everyone wants to read. Those are the teams that would draw the most eyeballs to TV and bring the biggest crowds to New Orleans.
And given the way that Kentucky has been playing of late, it should come as no surprise that many consider it a foregone conclusion that Big Blue Nation will be headed to the Big Easy.
That’s perfect for Baylor.
The Bears are as talented as anyone left in this tournament, and they are playing as well and as confidently as they have all season long. They are one of the few teams in the country that can matchup with Kentucky athletically. They have big bodies in the paint and a talented point guard that is unafraid of taking and making a big shot.
They have all the pieces needed to take down the Wildcats if Kentucky’s players decide to look forward to next weekend instead of focusing on this afternoon.
Of course, Kentucky-Baylor is not the only game of the day, as North Carolina will tip off against Kansas in St. Louis at 5:05 pm. And the story line that everyone will be following in that game involves Kendall Marshall and the wrist heard ’round the world.
Marshall is questionable. He dribbled a basketball for the first time yesterday, but he still has pain and needs a better range of motion in the wrist. Even if Marshall does suit up, there is reason to be skeptical about his effectiveness. He’ll be playing more or less one-handed, and doing so after not touching a ball for a week.
And while Stilman White played well in Marshall’s stead — finishing with six assists and no turnovers — the concern is that, as a team, UNC had 24 turnovers against Ohio. The rest of the roster tried to do too much against the Bobcats, and the result was some ugly offense.
Seeing Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey go up against Tyler Zeller and John Henson will be a treat. But if Tyshawn Taylor is able to break out of his slump, than UNC is going to be in big trouble against the Jayhawks.