Baylor rolled to a an easy 107-66 win against Central Arkansas. That wasn’t surprising because the Bears are substantially better than the other Bears. But we learned a few things about this team.
First, Tristan Clark is going to be very good, if he isn’t already. The 6-foot-9 freshman was the Texas High School Player of the Year. His post game is already advanced. I was most impressed by his passing. He connected with Terry Maston for a nice opportunity, hit Nuni Omot across the court and found Jo Lual-Acuil under the hoop:
Second, the Bears might play at a faster tempo this season. I thought they might last year, but the Bears finished 295th in tempo, so don’t bet on my predictions . The Bears haven’t played at a top 200 rate since 2013. To the eternal hope of partisans when their party doesn’t control the White House, things can change after four years. The Bears may return to a faster offensive era.
The big advantage for Baylor pushing the pace is that almost everyone on the team can run. When those players get up court quickly, the defense has to make split-second decisions and pick up a man. And if the defense can’t find Manu Lecomte, they learn the scouting report was right about him being one of the country’s best 3-point shooters:
Third, Omot is making plays. He finished the Central Arkansas game with 15 points and nine assists. The Bears will be in a lot better spot if Omot can lead the break:
The Bears are still running my favorite set, what I’ve dubbed “the awesome play.” It’s a rip action set where a player catches the ball with a screen set on the right side of the floor. Ish Wainright was the man who was tasked with firing the pass last season. The Bears first play of the season was “the awesome play.” Omot ran it, but Lual-Acuil didn’t get open down low. Later in the game, Mark Vital found him:
The awesome play has more options than just the dunk. Clark adjusts the screen, and if Lual-Acuil isn’t open, the guard (here Lecomte) can run to the perimeter for a 3-point attempt. And the Bears ran it slightly differently in the second half. Lual-Acuil sealed his man near the hoop, and he made the layup:
A major reason the Bear’s half-court offense exploded is because the Bears made about every shot. The team went 12-of-17 from deep and 17-of-20 from the free throw line. Baylor will likely not shoot that well again this season. They shot 5% better from beyond the arc than any team did in the country on opening night.
Baylor should still be a good half-court offensive team, even when they’re not making every shot. Excluding the 2011 campaign, Baylor’s been top 25 in KenPom’s offensive efficiency every year since 2008. Duke is the only other team to achieve that feat. The Bears have done that by dominating the offensive glass and performing well in their most popular sets. This year, the two-man game between Lual-Acuil and Lecomte shows promise. Lual-Acuil set a wonderful screen on this play, and Lecomte nailed the shot:
The Bears are substantially better than Central Arkansas. On their worst day, they’d still beat them. But on the opening day of the season, Baylor displayed why their offense will have plenty of fantastic days.