Without our fearless audio-leader, the rest of the MBB coverage team decided to go a different route. PocketChange (PC), MattisBear (MiB), and DFank (DF) hopped on the old fashioned electronic mail machine and did some hoops-talkin’.
Time to Worry?
MiB: I’m kinda scared guys. This team (most recent game aside) almost seems to be regressing at times. Or am I an idiot? Is the Big XII just that dominant?
PC: The only thing that scares me is how bad the defense has been, especially down on the baseline. Drew had the wings up pretty high last season on defense, too, but it feels as though five or six times a game the opposing team slides a dude down the baseline without a defender ever noticing. I’m not sure if it’s a communication issue or something else, but the fact that it continues to get worse is pretty disheartening.
The losses themselves have me less worried. It would have been better not to split with Tech, but OU, Texas, and Iowa State have done that, too, and that’s a group about where Baylor should be. If Baylor can steal one in Austin Saturday, everything else that has happened should be much more palatable. With as strong as the Big XII is, and with more games proving that Texas and Tech are actually good teams, being three games above .500 headed into a tough stretch feels about right.
MiB: I’ve definitely noticed this with Lindsey being on the wing. I think he’s a phenomenal freshman in terms of composure and ball-handling, but freshman gonna freshman I guess. Others are guilty of it too. And don’t let me hear about people calling for man defense. Just…. I can’t.
DF: This is clearly not one of Drew’s better defensive teams and there’s been several reasons for this. I’ve mentioned before that the zone is much more effective when there is a legitimate shot blocking threat under the basket to deter penetration, which allows our guards to be more active out top without having to worry about somebody dribbling by them. We haven’t had that inside threat since Isaiah Austin left, but we were able to mask it better last year as we had better perimeter defenders with Chery and O’Neale. Thankfully this team can score and therefore the defensive lapses don’t always cost them games.
PC: Beating the Cyclones again looks like it was really great for the spirit of the team. That loss to Tech was obviously dispiriting for the team and the fans. Gathers’ foul on Gray was a bleak moment. It felt like another loss would have fractured the team the rest of the way and we could have ended up in a spot like 2013. Seeing the enthusiasm and enjoyment on the players’ faces during and after the ISU game was relieving.
Can we also speak publicly about how Gathers’ absence hasn’t meant much? Is that just guys picking up when a key guy is missing, or is Gathers just not as important as his shoulders would lead you to believe?
DF: I thought not having Gathers was going to be crippling against Iowa State because those are the types of teams that he does his best work underneath. But it was fantastic to see guys like Motley and Maston step up in his absence. Their performances make me feel more confident in next year’s team as well since they’ll be counted on in more prominent roles.
I agree that the spacing has seemed to be better without Rico out there hanging out in the paint. But we also lose the amount of second chance opportunities that Rico gets us with his work on the offensive glass. And it may not always necessarily be a direct impact but maybe he’s getting double teamed on box outs which allows somebody like Prince or Motley to get a clean run at a putback. It’s worked out nicely for us the last two games when he’s been out but I still think this team is clearly more capable with a healthy Rico Gathers than without.
MiB: It’s been an interesting situation for sure. Gathers was widely regarded as the heart of this team, locking down defensive possessions with big, manly rebounds. But to be honest? The offense has much better spacing without him on the floor. Hard to feel TOO strongly one way or another for me.
Projections into March?
MiB: I have no idea anymore. This team has a ceiling of a 2-3 seed it feels like, but weird stuff and energy probably puts us at a ceiling of a 10 seed. I doubt we fall that far. I agree with Fank, a 6 seed would satisfy me. A lot how a McDonald’s hamburger satisfies me, technically, but I’m not happy about it.
PC: Baylor needs just one win in the last 5 games to reach .500 in conference play, which feels pretty likely (*waves at TCU*). That’s good enough to make the Tourney, which is all I really want. Drew made program history last year with back-to-back appearances, so a third straight berth would be pretty satisfying.
I think Baylor probably goes 2-3 to close things out. They’ll win one of the Texas, WVU games. I mean, with how bonkers college basketball has been as a whole, something has to bounce Baylor’s way in the last couple of weeks. There’s a chance they even go 3-2! Or is that maybe too optimistic?
DF: Outside of the TCU game, we have an absolutely brutal final stretch. I’d be elated if we could pull 3 wins out of these last 5. It would certainly be a nice momentum boost going into the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAAs. And if you can take away what happened in the first round last year, Scott Drew’s teams have typically played their best basketball in March. Realistically, I’d be okay with beating TCU and winning one of the other four to get us to 21-10 and 10-8 in the conference. That should land us somewhere in the 6 or 7 seed range, which is probably about right for this team.
Any final thoughts?
PC: Is there still time for Ish to become the greatest player in Baylor history? I think there’s still time.
Also, is there actually a fan favorite this season? Is it still Rico? Maston? King?
DF: Buddy Hield
MiB: Did you know Rico didn’t lift wei[Network Connection Terminated]