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Baylor advances to its second Elite Eight in three seasons

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Xavier v Baylor

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23: Quincy Acy #4 of the Baylor Bears dunks against the Xavier Musketeers in the second half during the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on March 23, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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For the second time in three years, No. 3 Baylor is heading to the Elite Eight with a 75-70 win over No. 10 Xavier.

The Bears jumped out to a 22-4 lead on Xavier in the opening minutes, and while the Musketeers were able to trim the lead to five before the half, they didn’t get to within one possession of the Baylor until there were 13 seconds left in the game.

Quincy Acy had 20 points and 15 boards, while Pierre Jackson chipped in with 16 points and 10 assists. The best news for the Bears, however, is that Perry Jones III had 14 points and five boards while shooting 7-of-8 from the floor. Coming into the game, Jones had a total on nine points on 4-for-14 shooting during the first weekend.

The question that now must be asked about Baylor is how we should regard their head coach Scott Drew. Drew tends to be a whipping boy in basketball circles, in part because many of his coaching peers dislike the way that he handles his recruiting and in part because he is the butt of a lot of “he can’t coach” jokes.

Well, the guy that can’t coach is in the Elite Eight. His team is playing as well as they have all season long, and they are doing it while their most talented player has yet to play up to his ability in this tournament. And while putting Drew in the same sentence John Wooden or Dean Smith at this point is premature, it should be noted that the Bears have become a different team since Drew made two changes: 1) he’s gone away from using the 2-3 zone quite a bit since the start of the Big 12 tournament; and 2) he’s started playing a three guard lineup -- with Jackson, AJ Walton and Brady Heslip sharing the perimeter -- more often.

The result has been Baylor’s postseason surge. It makes you wonder: what if he had made these changes earlier in the season?

Baylor will advance to face the winner of No. 1 Kentucky and No. 4 Indiana.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.