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Al Freeman: Previewing the 2017 Bears

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NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

This is the third post in a series exploring Baylor basketball's roster for the 2016-2017 season. The series continues with a look at junior guard Al Freeman. You can read earlier posts on Ish Wainright, and Jo Acuil by clicking on the player’s last name.

Shooting Improvement

Al Freeman made a big jump from his freshman year to his sophomore year in his three-point percentage. As a freshman, Freeman shot 33% from deep. This past season, Freeman improved his percentage to 38%.

One of Freeman's problems as a freshman seemed to be the arc on his shot. Often his shot fell flat, as it does below:

Al Freeman went to work and had a better shot in 2015. Freeman made 29 more shots from deep as a sophomore than he did as a freshman. A lot of it was due to improvement in his shot:

The comparison between freshman Freeman, and last season’s Freeman is on display below. Freeman makes a three against the late contest from Devonte Graham, who is my vote for the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year:

Creating Offense

One test for Freeman this season will be creating more offense. Without Taurean Prince, Baylor now has to replace a huge portion of its offense. Freeman will have a lot of opportunities to shoot.

95% of Freeman's threes were assisted last season, per hoop-math.com . However, Freeman did show a nice jab step several times last season. Against the Cowboys, Freeman told people just because he takes a step, doesn't mean he has to go anywhere:

Against Matt Thomas, Al Freeman demonstrated he doesn't need much space to remind Iowa State a cyclone is not a bird, so maybe change your mascot:

Defense

Al’s challenge this season will be helping Baylor’s defense improve from its regression to 91st in KenPom last season. While I mentioned previously that Ish Wainright will be a huge defensive piece, and Jo Acuil should team up with Motley for a reminder of 2010, Freeman will be tasked with keeping some fantastic guards in front of him or rotating out to contest shots, if Baylor plays a lot of zone.

In Big 12 play, Freeman improved his steal percentage to a very respectable 2.1%, according to KenPom. The Bears rarely played Freeman alongside King McClure last season. If they play that lineup more this season- something I expect they will do- Freeman will have a new challenge in defending some bigger wings. With his athleticism and good instincts, Freeman should be able to defend bigger wings, but it will be a key challenge to see how effectively Baylor can defend while playing a smaller lineup that should have a higher offensive ceiling.

Outlook For This Season

I’d be surprised if Freeman or Motley didn't lead the team in points. If not for Ben Howland getting fired at UCLA, Freeman would not have even ended up at Baylor. Now he’s coming off an improved sophomore season and tasked with being one of Baylor’s best players. If Freeman can improve like he did last season, the Bears have a strong chance to make the second weekend of the tournament.