March S[imulation]adness: Baylor prepares to defend title

MANHATTAN, KS - FEBRUARY 08: Te'a Cooper #4 of the Baylor Lady Bears drives to the basket against Angela Harris #3 of the Kansas State Wildcats during the first quarter on February 8, 2020 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, KS - FEBRUARY 08: Te'a Cooper #4 of the Baylor Lady Bears drives to the basket against Angela Harris #3 of the Kansas State Wildcats during the first quarter on February 8, 2020 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images) /

Alabama A&M looks to shatter Baylor’s dominance in true underdog fashion in a lopsided first round matchup of March S[imulation]adness.

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In this first round matchup between top-seeded Baylor and 16th seed Alabama A&M making its way to tip-off in the first round, the Bulldogs look to pull off a miracle and upset the Lady Bears at home in what will be an extremely lop-sided matchup.

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Previewing Alabama A&M

The fourth place team in the SWAC, the Bulldogs by some miracle took out favorable Jackson state in the semi-finals to eventually win the whole tournament and secure the 16th seed in the tournament. Unfortunately for them, they drew Baylor and will face a huge test in strength in order to defeat the Lady Bears at home.

Headlined by the dynamic duo of Missouri State transfer and sophomore forward Dariuna Lewis and junior guard Deshawna Harper, the Bulldogs set a 12-6 SWAC record aiding to a 17-13 overall record.

The Bulldogs struggled mightily in non-conference play, losing to Big 10 school, Nebraska in Lincoln while going 5-7 in total and 4-7 against other mid-major schools.

The 6’1 Lewis is a major inside threat, both offensively and defensively, finishing off the season averaging a near double-double of 16.8 points and 9.2 rebounds adding in a total of 52 blocks while shooting a spectacular 65.2% from the floor. She exploded for her first double-double of not only the season but of her career with 31 points and 13 rebounds on 71.4% shooting in a win at San Diego State which would begin her season long scoring tandem.

She recorded 10 double-doubles on the season with a season high 20 boards, along with 21 points, in win at Georgia State.

The 5’4 Harper is a guard who specializes on inside scoring and penetration rather than the exterior shooting and dishing. She finished off the season averaging 13.1 points per game shooting 34.8% from the field. Despite her inside scoring, she struggled from the line shooting only 69.2%.

Her brightest game came in a 79-71 loss at Memphis where she shot a season high 54.5% from the field and scored a season high 30 points.

Her ability to penetrate allowed her to be successful and relieve pressure from Lewis and find the open gaps in the defense.

Previewing Baylor

The undisputed champions of the Big 12, the Lady Bears are a menace on the court that is impossible to defeat. At 26-2, Baylor is dominant in all aspects of the game, shooting, rebounding, defense, you name it and they’re practically on top. It sure helps when you have two future WNBA draft picks in forward Lauren Cox and guard Te’a Cooper and forward NaLyssa Smith on your roster.

The first loss of the season was in non-conference play was against future no. 1 South Carolina in the Paradise Jam.

The second loss was a heartbreaker, losing in the last game of the regular season to Big 12 foe Iowa State in Ames. The upset was a close one, losing to the Cyclones by only one point with a score of 57-56. But that loss was definitely a fluke and had no effect on their seeding.

The 6’4 Cox finished her final season in Waco averaging 12.5 points and 8.4 rebounds on 46.3% shooting in a season that was shortened due to an injury in the beginning of the season. She recorded a total of nine double-doubles and scored in double-digits in all but four games.

Cox shredded the defensive post recording a team leading 59 blocks on the season and made opposing players think twice before penetrating into the lane. On the offensive end, she knew her place as an inside scorer and never failed to put opposing defenders on their toes whenever she was fed the rock.

The 5’8 graduate transfer from South Carolina Cooper shined in her lone season in the green and gold. She boasted averages of 13.6 points and 4.6 assists on 43.8% shooting from the field.

Cooper is a shoot first guard who has no issue sharing the rock. She is a balanced shooter who can excel from three as she averaged 41.5% from beyond-the-arc. Her reliability and efficiency as a shooter is a perfect compliment for when Cox is being double-teamed down low.

The 6’2 Smith was the Lady Bears’ leading scorer this past season. She put up career numbers in points and rebounds per game, lifting her averages from 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds her freshman season to 14.3 points and 8 rebounds her sophomore season.

Her offensive efficiency inside is what led her to becoming the team’s leading scorer. She shot 58.6% from the field and served as the perfect fill in for when the Lady Bears were without Cox due to injury and continued to fulfill her role when Cox came back. Them two were like the twin towers down low, when one of them was being doubled, the other would be wide open for an easy shot, a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Series history

Baylor and Alabama A&M have never played each other so this matchup will be one for the history books.

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