One of the great strengths of the SBNation network is our access to smart people around the country who report on our opponents. One of those people is Ted Harrison, who writes for the Baylor blog Our Daily Bears. You can find Ted's writing over there, and you can follow him on Twitter @tedvid.
If you're interested, head over there to read up on all things Baylor basketball, and check out the answers I gave Ted to his set of questions.
1. Baylor appears to be a team that could dominate the frontcourt with 7'1" sophomore Isiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, especially given our youth and relative weaknesses in the paint. Tell me more about how Baylor utilizes these two players.
The best part about Baylor's front court is that it isn't just those two - Jefferson is a massive human being and highly skilled for a big man, and Isaiah Austin is a 7 footer who plays like a small forward, but the unsung hero for this Bear's frontcourt is Ricardo Gathers. Gathers is 6'8" and about 260 pounds of muscle. He truly belongs on our defensive line.
Now as far as how we utilize Jefferson and Austin - in all honesty, not very well. Defensively, Jefferson cleans up the boards and Austin alters shots but there were only a handful of times last year that both had a quality offensive game at the same time. Austin is coming off shoulder surgery and appeared timid in our opener against Colorado while Jefferson looked like a more robust version of his former self. I will say that Austin seems to play his best basketball when he gets a bit frustrated and has shown an ability to take over the game for stretches at a time. If you were to ask most Baylor fans though, we don't run the offense through these two enough but they hold steady on the defensive end (Jefferson more than Austin).
2. Pierre Jackson was an amazing basketball player for the Bears last season - how is Baylor handling his departure?
We got another JUCO point guard transfer in Kenny Chery and he was unbelievably smooth in our opener against Colorado. He led our team in both minutes and points while limiting his mistakes (4 assists to 2 turnovers) and the coaches have raved about him through practices and scrimmages. Will he be able to fill the void left by Pierre Jackson? No way - but my worry about the backcourt is slowly diminishing thanks in large part to Chery's performance in the opener and the return of Brady Heslip's 3 point shot. Also, senior Gary Franklin is getting the start now over Heslip and has shown over the years to play some decent perimeter defense.
3. What are your expectations for Baylor this season?
This team has enough talent to compete for the Big 12, likely finishing in 2nd or 3rd (behind Kansas and Oklahoma State, two really good teams). I think anything less than a Sweet Sixteen will ultimately be a disappointment which still feels incredibly ridiculous to say because we are not that far removed from just wanting to make the top half of the Big 12. I think we are going to see one of Scott Drew's most blue collar, disciplined and tough teams since he's taken over at Baylor and that identity should give us a chance to be successful.
4. How do you expect the game to go on Tuesday afternoon? What are the key areas where South Carolina or Baylor will need to excel to win?
In some ways, we have to out Frank Martin, Frank Martin. This team is strong, deep and not afraid to hit you in the chin so my expectation is that we see our bigs dominate from the beginning and take the Gamecocks out of the game early. I also would not be surprised to see a big game from our true freshman Ish Wainright who starts for us at the 3. I will say that I am looking forward to the Kenny Chery, Tyrone Johnson matchup and definitely think that is SC's greatest chance at stealing one from Baylor. We are vulnerable if Brady Heslip isn't shooting well and if Jefferson/Austin get in foul trouble - so if I'm Martin, that's my point of attack.