Manu Lecomte will likely lead the 2017-2018 Bears to a school record fifth straight NCAA Tournament. But how well he performs will go a long way in determining if the Bears can make at least a fifth Sweet 16 this decade.
We’ll take a look at his strengths, weaknesses and expectations for this season.
Any discussion of Lecomte should begin with his superb 3-point shooting. He hit 41% of his 171 attempts last season. In his sophomore season at Miami, he drilled 46% of his 114 shots. There’s a giant sample size that shows he can shoot.
Lecomte is a good shooter because he has a quick and easily reproducible shot. That provides two advantages. First, his form helps him avoid long shooting droughts as he fires from the same place on nearly every shot. Second, his quick shot counteracts problems with his size. Manu Lecomte is only 5-foot-11. But with a quick release, he can counteract longer defenders getting into his line of sight quickly:
The Bears also gain needed lineup flexibility with Lecomte. He transferred from Miami because he played shooting guard with the Hurricanes, and the Bears gave him the opportunity to play point guard. But his skill getting open or acting as a valuable floor spacing decoy opens up the paint for Baylor’s big men. The Big 12’s two best shooting guards are probably Devonte Graham and Manu Lecomte. Both are excellent point guards, but watching Lecomte get open gives the Bears a chance to work in different guard lineups:
Lecomte also did well finding open men and creating good shots for teammates. He finished 6th in the Big 12 in assist rate. He often set up players with quality shots:
Baylor had its best defense of the KenPom era and Lecomte was a big reason why. He limited dribble penetration, which helped ensure opponents took tougher shots outside of the paint. Additionally, he contested well without fouling. As the chart below demonstrates, the Bears foul rate went down drastically in 2017. At the same time, opponents effective field goal percentage went from 51.2% in 2015-2016 to 46.1% last season.
Any discussion of Baylor’s 2017 defense should give due credit to Ish Wainright, Jo Lual-Acuil and others, but there’s no doubt Lecomte did well in the areas mentioned above. He finished with a top 500 defensive foul rate, but he was also above the 90th percentile for much of the season as an on ball defender, according to Synergy. Watch the games. Look at the stats. They all back up that he’s a good on ball defender.
Finally, Lecomte was the guy the Bears could count on to make big shots. He hit a 3-point shot from about 30 feet with less than a minute left to pull Baylor within one against Kansas State. In a bad shooting night for the Bears in Waco, he drained the game winner against Iowa State on a tough 2-point look. And when the Bears season seemed over against USC in the tournament, he made a ton of big shots:
Baylor was hampered last season by turnovers. The Bears fell from 216th to 308th in that category. That problem was not exclusive to Lecomte, but he had a turnover rate of 19.6% on KenPom. That was 46th in the Big 12. 2017 was his first year running an offense, but he’s going to need to cut that number a decent bit as the Bears look to replace Johnathan Motley’s production.
With the exception of 2011 and 2017, Scott Drew has built a top 20 KenPom offense every other year this decade. Only Duke and Baylor have done that. The Bear’s offense has survived turning it over quite a bit by being dominant on the offensive glass—Baylor has been 4th or better five of the last eight years. But Baylor’s offensive rebounding could regress next year. Motley led the Big 12 by a wide margin in offensive rebounding rate. If Baylor’s offensive rebounding falls a bit, then the Bears better make a huge improvement in protecting the ball.
Lecomte’s turnovers aren’t fatal though. Baylor’s point guards often have higher turnover percentages because they orchestrate a lot in the offense. These numbers aren’t fixed too. With Jake Lindsey, King McClure and Nuni Omot a year older as quality wing options, Lecomte should be better avoiding turnovers. And Lecomte’s numbers in the proper context look fine:
The other weakness with Lecomte is his pick-and-roll initiation. At 5-foot-11, he can struggle to see over tall defenders. That makes him vulnerable to hard hedges and traps:
His struggles running high pick-and-rolls aren’t catastrophic, and with a year of experience as a starting point guard, he’ll improve his decision-making. He has a good mid-range shot, which should help him if he can get a step on his defender in the pick-and-roll. The 2018 Bears should also have better perimeter shooting, and that will make defenses hesitant to leave shooters open on the wings.
Baylor received zero votes in either major poll entering the 2016-2017 season. But with a new point guard, the Bears achieved the first No. 1 ranking in program history and made it to the Sweet 16.
USC is going to lobby Trump to add Belgium to the travel ban after what Manu Lecomte just did to them.— Kendall (@kkaut) March 20, 2017
Lecomte’s incredible range, good passing and strong defense make him an excellent point guard. He turned it over too much last season—his first season as a point guard in college. With another year of experience and better wing shooting, he should contend for First Team All-Big 12.