AUSTIN _ Although he's no longer playing basketball for Baylor, Curtis Jerrells couldn't believe the Big 12 coaches somehow picked the Bears to finish conference play this season in 10th place.
Jerrells felt that was a slap in the face at best for a legacy he had helped build. Or someone was jealous about the Bears' rise out of the ashes to become one of only five teams still playing in the NCAA Tournament by the time they tipoff today at 4:05 against Duke in the South Region finals at Houston's Reliant Stadium.
The way Jerrells sees it, the Bears should have been affforded more respect by the Big 12 coaches this year after they advanced to the Big 12 postseason tournamernt finals and National Invitation Tournament championship game lasdts year. And with starters LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Josh Lomers returning from that unit, Jerrells believes the Bears earned more respect than a projected 10th-place finish by the men who ought to know better.
"They picked us to finish 10th, but I knew what we had,'' said Jerrells, a point guard for Baylor the previous four seasons who now plays for the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League. "And Coach (Scott) Drew has done a great job coaching these guys.''
Jerrells believes the turning point for Baylor came when Drew implemented a zone defense during last year's Big 12 postseason tournament. Since then, the Bears are 35-9, hasn't lost two games in a row, and is the only team in college basketball this season yet to absorb a loss by no more than seven points.
"In the zone we've got length with (6-10) Anthony Jones out there on the wing, we've got big (7-foot) Josh (Lomers) in there playing big, and (6-10) Ekpe (Udoh) is doing his thing.''
Jerrells also said not to discount the fact that the Bears have a big shooting guard in LaceDarius Dunn, who is a nightmare for defenders with his quickness and unlimited shooting range. Plus, the steady hand of point guard Tweety Carter _ who learned a lot from Jerrells _ directs the whloe show.
"Lace is a 6-5 guard playing at the top, and that's something we couldn't do because we played smaller,'' Jerrells said. "We couldn't rebound out of the zone.
"But we went to the zone towards the end of the year in the Big 12 tournament, and Coach Drew took it and ran with it.''
And now, by the time Baylor tips off today against Duke, the Bears will be one of only five teams remaining in the college basketball field. Before the season started, no one could have predicted that.
-- Dwain Price