PREVIEW: Oregon State battles Baylor in Sweet 16
WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN
No. 6 (seed) Oregon State (25-7, 14-4) vs No. 2 Baylor (33-1, 18-0)
Friday, Mar 23, 2018 - 4 p.m.
Radio: Beaver Sports Radio Network
After defeating Tennessee in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament, the Oregon State women’s basketball team now heads to Lexington, Kentucky for the Sweet Sixteen. The Beavers’ opponent is a familiar one in the Baylor Bears. The Beavers and Bears last played in a WBB classic in the Elite Eight in 2016. OSU barely got the better of Baylor in that matchup as the Beavs walked away with a 60-57 victory to advance to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Can the Beavers keep pace with one loss Baylor or will the Beavers be overmatched?
3 KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Play the best defense all season
Baylor comes into this matchup with Oregon State as one of the best teams in the entire country as they have lost only one game all season (UCLA) and boast some of the best playmakers in the country both offensively and defensively. Baylor is the epitome of success when it comes to NCAA Women’s Basketball outside of UConn and soon to be Hall of Fame head coach Kim Mulkey always has her team playing at an elite level.
Baylor ranks 2nd in the country in points per game (86.7) and boasts an elite level inside presence in the 6’7 Kalani Brown who averages 20.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. In order for the Beavers to have any chance of pulling off an upset of a team like Baylor, they’ll need to lockdown defensively both in man and zone defense and play their defensive best game of the season. The Beavers have proven they have the capability to lock down big time teams this season as exemplified by wins against fellow Sweet Sixteen teams UCLA and Oregon. OSU ranks fourth in the country in field goal percentage defense (34.5) and only allows 58.1 points per game. If Scott Rueck and Co. can draw up a defensive gameplan to throw Baylor off their rhythm OSU just might have a chance at an upset.
2. Balance the scoring
As Kim Mulkey and her staff are beginning their preparation on Oregon State, one thing’s for sure. Stopping Marie Gülich is going to be their top priority. After dominating performances against Western Kentucky (29 points, 15 rebounds) and Tennessee (14 points, 12 rebounds) and leading her team to victory in both games, Gülich is going to be at the center of Baylor’s scouting report.
Given that OSU is one of the better teams in the country, it isn’t unrealistic to think that the Beavers could take the best shot from a team like Western Kentucky and still overpower them. Good teams can still dominate weaker teams in the earlier rounds despite excellence gameplans from the underdog. The problem for Oregon State is that Baylor is going to play defense on Gülich like no one else in the country. 33-1 teams don’t let opponents stars have big games. Period. This isn’t to say that Gülich won’t get her numbers, but rather to state the importance of other players contributing. The Beavers need production from the other four on the floor and the bench. Taya Corosdale, Kat Tudor, Katie McWilliams, Aleah Goodman have to get their numbers and more. OSU is a very short rotation team so they’ll need to get starting line production outside of Gülich and Pivec in order succeed.
3. Stay level headed
After dealing with a hostile environment in Knoxville, the Beavers now get the benefit of a truly neutral site in Lexington. Despite this, one of the most important keys for the Beavers is to stay level headed throughout the whole game. OSU got down early against a racious crowd against the Lady Volunteers and blocked it out and in doing so was rewarded with the win. Scott Rueck’s team has to do it again. The Beavers may very well get down early to Baylor but they’ll have to be engaged for a full 40 minutes in order to come out on top. It’s a marathon not a sprint, and my guess is that Baylor will try and run OSU out of the building early and often with tempo and quick shot selection. The Beavers will need to weather the storm and play their trademark defense with a clear, calm, and focused mind to upset the Lady Bears.
Despite my confidence in Scott Rueck and OSU’s defensive abilities, Baylor is an elite team on a mission. The Bears have too much talent from 1-5 and their bench is deeper and more experienced than OSU’s. The Beavers will keep it close early before Baylor punched their ticket to the Elite Eight in the second half.