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Baylor Basketball’s Defense has Been Awesome

It’s true

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

Baylor now ranks 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Over a full season, that mark would be the best in program history.

The Bears seemed poised to drop back on defense. With Jo Lual-Acuil, Manu Lecomte and Nuni Omot gone—all solid to great defenders—the Bears had a lot of new pieces to learn their man-to-man and zone tendencies.

Turnovers have boosted Baylor’s defense. The Bears are 33rd in turnovers. Last season they were 253rd. The 2014 Bears were 77th in turnovers, but they’ve been outside the top 100 in that stat every other season.

The only obvious place for regression is 3-point defense. Research by Ken Pomeroy and others has shown that most of 3-point defense is about limiting attempts not percentages; there’s generally not much that most defenses impact once a man decides to shoot. Baylor is 81st in 3-point percentage defense but just 178th in limiting 3-point attempts.

The Bears should still be a top 35 defense all season. Baylor’s played some bad 3-point shooting teams, so they’ve intentionally shifted the zone and pick-and-roll coverage to allow teams to fire shots. The Bears won’t defend every team like they defended Oregon and Arizona. And Baylor has quality defenders at nearly every spot—including King McClure and Mark Vital, two of the best defenders in the league.

Baylor’s problem continues to be shooting. The Bears hit 40% of their 25 threes against New Orleans. If Baylor shoots anywhere like that, then this team will get into the at-large debate. Hopefully they can do that.