After years of playing at a slower pace, Baylor basketball has a strong chance of speeding up their tempo this season.
Baylor had the 77th fastest pace in 2013, according to KenPom. That season, the Bears were led by the electrifying Pierre Jackson. The Bears also rolled out three guard lineups with a combination of the following: Jackson, Brady Heslip, Gary Franklin, and A.J. Walton.
This season’s Baylor lineup should also feature a number of skilled guards. The Bears are likely to start Manu Lecomte at point guard and Al Freeman at shooting guard. Who Baylor starts alongside those two, Ish Wainright, and Johnathan Motley is a question we’ll assess later in our series. But the Bears will almost assuredly roll out many three guard lineups. They have too many skilled guards to not do that. King McClure is a skilled shooter who also plays solid defense, and Jake Lindsey provides a giant guard who can slide to small forward.
Then, there’s Wendell (Chuck) Mitchell. Mitchell did this in the secret scrimmage against Vanderbilt:
Redshirt freshman Wendell "Chuck" Mitchell put on a show in today's scrimmage at Vandy. #SicEm pic.twitter.com/AwT9kvDT9o— Baylor Basketball (@BaylorMBB) October 23, 2016
With three guard lineups, and a talented ball handler for a forward in Ish Wainright, the Bears should be able to handle playing faster without the corresponding fear of an increase in turnovers.
Baylor has played at a far slower pace the past three seasons. In adjusted pace of play, the Bears were 316th in 2014, 303rd in 2015, and 262nd in 2016. But much of that can be explained by the Bears having one of the best offensive rebounders in college basketball history in Rico Gathers. Understandably, the Bears wanted Gathers back to give the Bears another offensive opportunity by having him crash the offensive glass on nearly every possession. Gathers is gone, and in his place, the Bears will search for a different offensive identity.
Baylor will likely end up building its offense around Johnathan Motley. Motley made the All-Big 12 team and provides an excellent back to the basket game. But Motley does not have to post up in the lane and have the ball worked around the floor until he can get open. Instead, one of Motley’s best skill is beating players up the floor:
The Bears will have moments where they slow it down. Terry Maston is talented in the post but not a man to play up tempo. The Bears may also feel they have a number of low post opportunities with Acuil and Motley, which might cause them to wait until the defense makes a mistake. With the shot clock still at 30 seconds, the Bears may think they can get better shots late in the clock.
The Bears have been one of the best offensive teams this decade. While the team loses Rico Gathers and has to replace an always excellent late shot clock option in Taurean Prince, the Bears have a strong group of guards. Add in Johnathan Motley and his ability to run the court, and the Bears should play at a faster tempo than the last several seasons.