Baylor, fresh off impressive win at Virginia Tech, tries to take down USC in Sweet 16

The Baylor Bears are next up for the USC women’s basketball team in the Women’s NCAA Tournament. Baylor lost to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals, so the Bears had a lot to prove heading into March Madness. They responded well, beating Vanderbilt and then Virginia Tech on the first weekend of the Big Dance. The win over Virginia Tech was a true road game on the Hokies’ home floor in Blacksburg, Virginia. That game is the entry point for a brief discussion about the Bears.

On one hand, winning an NCAA Tournament road game is extremely difficult, regardless of the opponent. Cassell Coliseum, Virginia Tech’s home arena, is a tough place to win in. Baylor’s ability to scratch out a 75-72 win over the Hokies reflects well on the Bears and shows how formidable they are. Baylor was not favored to win that game. The Bears — like Colorado beating Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament — won a true road game to reach the Sweet 16. That deserves a lot of respect.

Yet, as well as Baylor did play to win against Virginia Tech, it remains that the Hokies were without star player Elizabeth Kitley, who was injured and unable to play. Virginia Tech without Kitley is a greatly diminished version of its best self. Baylor turned in a winning performance, but the depleted nature of its opponent can’t be ignored.

So, as Baylor now faces USC in the Sweet 16, we’re all wondering how much the Kitley injury influenced that outcome, and how prepared the Bears will be against a full-strength USC team with all of its best players available for this regional semifinal on Saturday.

USC might benefit from playing Baylor in this respect: The Trojans just faced Kansas, a fellow Big 12 school. Lindsay Gottlieb, Beth Burns, and the rest of the staff might watch some Kansas-Baylor game film this week to get a feel for how the Trojans can attack and respond to Baylor at both ends of the floor. USC will need to minimize turnovers, which became a problem against Kansas, and find a way to get to the free throw line more than it did this past Monday versus KU.

Having seen Baylor score 75 on the road at Virginia Tech, USC will need to find a way to make sure Baylor doesn’t score in the 70s. USC gives itself the best possible chance of winning when it can hold an opponent under 60 points. There’s a lot to deal with when looking at a Baylor team whose toughness is impossible to ignore.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire