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Life Without Tristan Clark and Baylor-Oklahoma State Preview

A tough year for the Bears

NCAA Basketball: Baylor at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

With Tristan Clark out for the season, Baylor has to reinvent the offense and defense on the fly.

The Bears elected to go small to start the Kansas game. They played Mark Vital at the five, what I’ve called the Fival lineup.

The Fival lineup has some advantages. It allows Baylor to switch more across positions because Vital can guard smaller players. That lineup also rebounded fairly well, as Baylor finished the Kansas game with 26 offensive rebounds. Fival also lets Mario Kegler play the four, and he’s much better near the hoop than he is playing on the perimeter.

But the Fival lineup has some problems. Vital is just 6-foot-5. He basically has to front big men, or they’ll score nearly every possession. That unit also leaves everyone playing a little out of position. The Bears didn’t spend the off-season planning to play without Clark. Vital didn’t spend much time playing center.

We’ll return to the longer preview format once we have more insight into how Baylor will play while small. I’ll also have a long look at what I’d do because I don’t have a solid take now. Maybe the press Baylor ran late against Kansas has some hope. Or maybe it will get blown apart and Baylor’s guards can’t play that way. Maybe Baylor needs to play faster, but maybe the team will just turn it over more.

This has been a tough season since it became apparent Baylor couldn’t shoot. The Bears, with Clark, would have been a tournament quality team if they were an average 3-point shooting team. Instead, they were one of the two worst major conference teams from beyond the arc. Now they don’t have the team’s best player.

Here are three keys to Baylor-Oklahoma State:

1) Force turnovers- Oklahoma State is 247th in turnover rate. Baylor should gamble for steals, especially with their smaller lineups.

2) Limit Oklahoma State’s 3-point attempts- The Cowboys shoot 38% from deep. Baylor—if they elect to go small—will have to gamble Vital can guard Cameron McGriff one-on-one. Or the Bears will need to rotate quickly to shooters.

3) Control the offensive glass- Oklahoma State is 223rd in defensive rebounding. The Bears knocked off Arizona by owning the glass. They need to do that here.

Prediction: Going on the road without Clark makes this incredibly tough. Baylor will win another Big 12 game, but I fear they won’t this quickly. I’ll take Oklahoma State 72-68.