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Five Things I Like and Dislike about Baylor Basketball’s Play

A few takes on Baylor basketball

NCAA Basketball: Randall University at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Lowe may be the best sports writer in America. He runs a 10 things I like and dislike column. I’ll start doing that for Baylor basketball. Shout-out to him.

1) Baylor not running the awesome play effectively:

I’m planning to do a longer primer on this set, but Baylor’s best play the last few years has been a rip action set where the small forward catches the pass on the right wing. He can then fire it to the big man in the paint or to a 3-point shooter running off a screen. If that fails, the point guard can run off a double screen too.

The play is successful because it takes very little space to get a dunk:

The Bears did not have as much success running the play against Creighton and Xavier. Watch how this play goes:

Compare the space Wainright has when he starts the pass. Iowa State’s defender is also breaking toward Jo Lual-Acuil. Wainright still makes the pass and it leads to a dunk:

In contrast, Omot has even more space and elects to not throw the ball:

The Bears need to get a little more aggressive. They have three easy games before conference play begins against Texas Tech at the end of the month. There’s no better time to see what works.

2) Baylor’s defense staying in the top 25:

With the loss of Johnathan Motley and Wainright, it was fair to question whether Baylor would remain a top 25 defense. They’re currently 20, which is just four spots lower than last season.

The Bears might be a little lucky in how their opponents are shooting from 3-point territory (outside the Wichita State game). But the Bears have been awesome contesting 2-point shots. Opponents are also taking just 17.8% of their shots at the rim.

Lual-Acuil has also moved quite well on defense:

3) Baylor passing up too many 3-point shots:

When Terry Maston returns, the Bears can focus on driving and taking their time. But without Maston, Baylor should be thrilled with King McClure, Jake Lindsey or Nuni Omot taking open shots. Unfortunately, McClure and Lindsey have passed up too many open looks.

Wichita State has a superb defense, but McClure and Lindsey both had open 3-point shots:

McClure’s driving has been lit, and Lindsey’s assist to turnover rate has been fantastic. These men are not Zaxby’s; they bring a lot of value to the world. But McClure’s range is excellent. He should let it fire:

4) Baylor’s improvement in dealing with teams that hard hedge ball screens:

Lecomte has struggled with teams that send pressure his way, and that’s especially been a problem against teams that hard hedge ball screens. Creighton gave him fits, though a lot of that was due to Khyri Thomas—one of the country’s best defenders.

Against Wichita State, Baylor had the screener roll to the hoop and Omot ran to the perimeter. The shot doesn’t go in, but trust the process:

5) The horns set when Terry Maston returns:

Maston is gone for a while, but he’ll be back by the time it will still be too soon to spoil “Star Wars.” He’ll be a welcome addition, in part because of his work in Baylor’s horns set.

In the horns set, two big men work up high and two shooters stand opposite each other in the corner. Usually the big men are situated at opposite ends of the free throw line, but Baylor changed things up against the Jays. Maston’s 3-point shooting, Lual-Acuil’s quick movement and the danger of Baylor’s other three players making a three point shot makes it a tough sequence to defend.

Baylor ran this play on their final six possessions against Creighton.

The second time running it, McClure had extra space once he got into the lane as Creighton’s helping big man was worried about Maston:

On their next two trips—still running horns—Maston got open for three. He missed the first. He drilled the second:

On the fifth time running it, Maston had the floor spaced for him and took it to the hoop for a make. And after doing that, Creighton’s defense was left scrambling on Baylor’s sixth straight time running the set. Lual-Acuil caught the ball in the paint and made a hook shot:

Once Maston returns, the Bears should go back to running this quite a bit. Hopefully Maston’s back by early in conference play.

The Bears have had the start I predicted. A few tweaks, and the Bears could be a top 15 team.