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What to Watch for Against Cupcake Opponents

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Early games against lesser competition can be hard to judge. I’m of the mindset that as long we come out on the winning side, I don’t usually put too much emphasis on the score. Truthfully, I enjoy watching the players try out different aspects of their individual game, and love to see the development in preparation for conference-play basketball. When there is a wide discrepancy in talent, I tend to focus on other facets of the game that will need to develop by January.

Shot Selection: Based on these early games so far, Mark Vital seems to have the green light on corner 3s and Matthew Mayer has no hesitation pulling up on contested jumpers. One of those contested jumpers looked like something guys would take when playing a 9:00 Monday night pickup game on the “C” court at the Baylor SLC. He got a steal and was driving to the other end of the court against three defenders and decided to pull the trigger on a 3-pointer. Although it may seem like questionable shot selection, against lesser competition, I tend to view it as a no-lose situation and great practice. Either the shots will fall enough for the players to be shooting them confidently come January, or they will know better than to attempt those type of shots later in the year. Now is the time of year for players to get comfortable with their shot selection. Baylor men’s basketball will be a stronger team if Vital and Mayer can connect consistently on their shots. It’s better to know the probabilities now and game plan for it, rather than later.

Set Plays: Coach Drew, by now, has probably earned everybody’s trust in this category. Baylor has been successful in inbounds plays and set offensive plays coming off a timeout. However, with so many unfamiliar faces it is important to get the team comfortable on the set plays. These plays often play a crucial role in close games and can be the difference in winning or losing a one possession game. Now is the time to use real game experience to try out any new plays that were drawn up in the offseason.

Rotations: This is one of the more obvious observations to be made. It’s not just about determining which players deserve more minutes down the stretch, but also which players play best with each other. This year there are several players with similar skill sets, it’s imperative for them to distinguish themselves with great teamwork and in how well they connect with their teammates.

The caveat with all three of these categories is that it is only acceptable to work on and be creative with these areas in the so-called cupcake games as long as Baylor controls the game. Done properly, these cupcake games can help this team be even more effective in conference play.