Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner a big challenge for Baylor in South Region

Ryan Kalkbrenner could pose a matchup problem for his next opponent as sixth-seeded Creighton and third-seeded Baylor prepare for a second-round showdown at the NCAA Tournament on Sunday in Denver.Both programs are eyeing a return to the Sweet 16 via the South Region. Baylor and Creighton each made the second weekend of the tournament in 2021, when the Bears went on to win the national championship, but both lost in the second round in 2022.Kalkbrenner, the 7-foot-1 center who leads Creighton (22-12) in scoring at 15.9 points per game is coming off a career-high 31-point showing in the Bluejays’ 72-63 first-round win over North Carolina State.Kalkbrenner had six dunks and seven rebounds in that game and finished 11-for-14 from the floor. He leads Division I in field-goal percentage at 71.4 percent, with a 74.4 percent rate from two-point range.That spells trouble for the Bears (23-10), despite their higher seed and championship experience. Their weakness is guarding the interior; they rank outside the top 300 nationally in two-point defense, allowing 53.4 percent shooting inside the arc.”They do a great job getting (Kalkbrenner) the ball,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “They can shoot it, which spaces the floor. And like any good team, they got two or three things, so if you collapse on them, they can hit the 3; if you stay out, they hurt you inside.”Baylor’s tallest rotation players are starting forward Flo Thamba and freshman reserve Josh Ojianwuna, both 6-foot-10. Drew said the Bears will stick to what they know, given the lone day to prepare for Kalkbrenner in practice.When asked how to simulate playing against the taller Kalkbrenner, Drew said, “We got cowboy boots for Flo, so we’re good.”The Bears received a fight from 14th-seeded UC Santa Barbara in the first round and trailed 36-35 at halftime before running away for a 74-56 victory.Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer combined for Baylor’s final 15 points while the Bears held UCSB to four points over the final nine-plus minutes. Flagler finished with 18 points and five assists, Cryer had 15 points and Caleb Lohner provided a season-high 13 points off the bench.The backcourt trio of Flagler, Cryer and Big 12 Freshman of the Year Keyonte George has Creighton’s attention.