No. 24 Michigan State is who we thought they were.
After a flurry of first half threes helped them build a 28-18 lead on No. 20 Baylor, the Spartans were outscored 53-23 over the next 25 minutes, losing to the Bears, 73-58, in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
It’s hard to call that unexpected.
Michigan State is young, they don’t have any veteran size inside and their point guard play is going to be inconsistent until Cassius Winston is ready to play starter’s minutes.
This is a team that is going to go through growing pains. We knew that.
What we didn’t know was just how good this Baylor team was going to be.
The Bears got 26 points, six boards and three assists from Johnathan Motley and 14 points from Jo Lual-Acuil, a pair of seven-footers who have quickly asserted themselves as the best front line in the Big 12 this season. Ishmail Wainwright has been terrific in the two games in the Bahamas, while Manu Lecomte has proven to be, at the very worst, a capable Big 12 guard and, at best, a difference-maker at a playmaking position.
Perhaps the most promising part of this Baylor team is their ability to defend. The 1-1-3 zone that Scott Drew employs flummoxed Oregon earlier this season, and when the Spartans shot them out of it, Baylor was able to lock down while playing man-to-man.
West Virginia has been impressive, and we’ll likely have a better feel for how good they are after the Preseason NIT this week, but I think it is safe to say Baylor is the biggest challenger to Kansas in the Big 12 this season.