David Fankhauser, Matt Wilson, and I had a length discussion about Baylor hoops on Slack. We covered surprises, lineups, and offered our predictions.
The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Kendall: Based on the expectations you had for this team coming into the year, how shocked are you with what's happened so far?
Fank: I had a sneaking suspicion that we would be better than what was being predicted, but I certainly never thought that we'd go undefeated through the first 11 games. All of the guys that were question marks coming into the season have met or surpassed expectations. We're a team that goes 10 deep right now and I feel pretty solid with just about any lineup combo that Scott Drew puts on the floor.
Did I think we could get up in the top 15 at some point this season? Yes. Did I expect us to go from unranked to top 5 in 3 weeks? Absolutely hell not.
Kendall: That matches me exactly. I am 10-1 in predicting our games this season, but that's also because I've adjusted that from where I thought we'd be in the preseason. I thought the team would get better. I did not think we would come out and be capable of the kind of comebacks we've had this season.
Fank, you mentioned a lot in your answer, and Matt will join us as the Rockets-Spurs ending was pretty crazy. What is the most surprising thing for you guys as we near the end of non-conference, excluding the weird Ole Miss game in the Big 12-SEC Challenge
Matt: re: expectations, I mean, this team kind of embodied #THEYSLEEP right? i'm thrilled that the pieces that Drew brought in fit together as well as they do.
So, I’m shocked, but I’m less shocked than the rest of America probably.
I knew Baylor had the pieces, but I hadn’t answered for myself how cohesive they would be together.
Most surprising thing? In CBB or just Baylor?
Kendall: Let's go Baylor.
Matt: For me its the control from Al Freeman. No secret that there was a little too much chaos in his game last season, but man, he is an absolute weapon when he’s focused.
Fank: Biggest surprise to me has been the fact that this team gelled so quickly given the amount of new pieces that were being worked into the rotation and then some of the returning guys were being asked to inherit bigger roles. I think there's some credit that goes to the coaching staff for having these guys ready from the jump. I also think Ish Wainright might be the best senior leader we've had since Tweety Carter. He seems to have a galvanizing presence in that locker room.
Matt: Yeah but we knew that about Ish. At least I did.
Fank: And also Acuil's offensive game. I definitely didn't expect him to be as adept handling the ball around the basket as he's shown.
Matt: Wait this is really dumb.
Fank: @mattisbear Not to say that we didn't know that about Ish. I just think he deserves a lot of the credit for it.
Matt: I have the most surprising thing.
The most surprising thing is how the media/lazy fan has latched on to the “Oh, maybe Scott Drew CAN coach” train.
Never thought that would happen.
Kendall: I agree, all these fools reminding the world: http://www.ourdailybears.com/2016/12/11/13895626/the-definitive-scott-drew-can-coach-article
Fank: I feel like that narrative has slowly changed over the last few years. But this season has definitely made some of the remaining non-believers take notice. (see Titus, Mark)
Kendall: The Bears defense is ranked 10th on KenPom as of chat time. That's 13 spots higher than any other Baylor team. How has the defense been this good?
Matt: Well see when you get a bunch of guys who are really athletic and also very tall and long and also very focused and smart defenders, you get a good defense. But seriously, the zone is always going to look great early in the season. I will be curious to see how our noted conference boogeymen handle it. Baylor plays some teams that can shoot the rock.
Kendall: Baylor has mixed in man-to-man more than any season this decade. Do you think the team should pick a defense or keep mixing it up?
Matt: Please leave. #zone4lyfe
Fank: I like mixing it up. And I think this team is actually pretty damn good in man to man, which is a departure from seasons past. Last year when we went to that man man defense, we were basically telling teams "Merry Christmas, please have this bucket".
Kendall: The rotation has 10 men right now. How many guys do you think will be in the rotation by the middle of January? And, how many should be in the rotation?
Fank: If there's one guy that might get worked out of the rotation, I think it might be Chuck Mitchell. But otherwise, I don't see where Drew gets us to under 9 deep.
Matt: Hold on. Still thinking.
Kendall: I think it will be, and should be eight. Chuck and Nuni have talent, but the other eight guys seem a step above them. Lual-Acuil doesn't foul much, so I don't see a ton of time for Nuni in the frontcourt, rather I think we'll just slide Ish to the 4 if Motley and Maston get in foul trouble. To me, there's a big drop off from whoever you think is Baylor's 8th best guy to the 9th best guy.
Fank: I just get this sense where we'll have a few games where Nuni gets some key minutes. Not sure why I feel that way, but he brings a lot to the table despite being a guy we don't know a lot about at this point. #wingspan
Kendall: Drew did stay with a giant rotation for a lot of 2012 with Deuce Bello and Gary Franklin still getting minutes, so he could stay at nine for sure. But would you rather play Jake Lindsey or King McClure an extra five minutes a night than Nuni or Chuck, Fank? Or do you like what Nuni brings and want to keep him out there?
Matt: I blacked out for a lot of that season.
Fank: No, I think Nuni and Chuck are a clear 9 and 10 if we're talking about ranking guys in the rotation.
Matt: Can we give some props to King for evolving his game to match D1 speed?
That’s hard to do.
Kendall: No doubt. Matt, what is your rotation guess by mid-conference, and how big do you want the rotation to be?
Matt: Drew will almost assuredly stay consistent. 8, with TJ and Nuni swapping minutes depending on who’s practiced well.
Kendall: You've got to roll out a Baylor five man lineup in the final five minutes, what's your lineup?
Fank: I feel pretty good rolling that starting five out there. But Drew proved in the Louisville game that he's willing to hang with the hot hand in crunch time from game to game.
Matt: My personal weird offense only world? Manu, Al, Jake, Ish, Motley.
Fank: No King?
Matt: wait wait wait
i might be a dumb
no i like that.
there’s enough spacing
Idk, King would be just as awesome there. I think Jake picks his shots well enough there, and his defense is fun. Finishes in transition.
Kendall: I like that we've picked the three lineups, that I think you choose from. Fank's starting unit, Matt's Jake at the 3, Ish slides up, aka the lineup we started in game one because Motley was out. And I would have King at the three, instead of Jake.
Kendall: What worries you the most about this team?
Fank: My biggest worries about this team are Kansas and West Virginia
Kendall: I am very worried about how we match-up with West Virginia. We got rocked by them twice last season. I think they could turn the Bears over a ton. I also think Oklahoma State is a weird problem for us, where we could end up 0-4 in those games, and by that point, we're staring down a 5-12 match-up, again
Fank: I'm a little worried about the fact that we haven't played a true road game. Last year we were fantastic on the road in conference, but every team reacts to it differently.
I think we can handle a team like WVU because we played a couple major ball pressure teams in the Bahamas when we played VCU and Louisville. Now obviously they don't press as heavily as WVU does, but that gives me confidence. Plus I definitely trust Manu at this point more than I did Lester Medford last year at managing the press effectively.
Matt: uhhh so my nose is bleeding pretty hard right now
ill be back
Kendall: We'll get a final question, then I'll edit this together and post it tomorrow or Thursday. Where does Baylor finish in the Big 12, where do we finish in the tournament, and will Johnathan Motley enter the NBA draft?
Commas make that one question!
Fank: Baylor finishes 3rd in the Big 12, gets a #2 seed and reaches the second weekend in the NCAA Tournament. And yeah I don't see how Motley doesn't go pro at this point.
Kendall: I have the Bears 2nd in the Big 12, I think they're a 2 seed and lose in the Sweet 16. Motley enters the draft.
Fank: @kkaut you and I think too much alike bruh