Baylor’s offense has been incredible in league play. In six Big 12 games, Baylor has the league’s most efficient offense. The Bears have a lead of 5.6 points per 100 possessions over the next highest team. That gap is the difference between the 2nd and 7th rated unit.
The Bears have done that without Tristan Clark, their best player, in four of those games.
Here are five things that have helped Baylor build that offense:
1) Offensive rebounding- The Bears are collecting 39.9% of their misses in league play. They grabbed 50% against Kansas. Those second chances have helped Baylor get open threes:
2) Makai Mason in the paint- Baylor’s point guard went 8-of-8 from two against West Virginia. The Mountaineers had to feel good several times when Mason reached the paint. But those feelings didn’t matter:
Send everyone to stop Mason, and he’ll make unbelievable passes for open threes:
3) Good play from Freddie Gillespie and Flo Thamba- Gillespie has shocked me recently. He was out of the rotation until the Clark injury, and he struggled mightily against Kansas. But as someone close to the program told me, “Freddie always works hard.” And he’s been phenomenal for the team. He hit four big free throws to seal the win in Stillwater, and he’s put himself in the right spots on offense. Jared Butler’s path to the hoop was a lot easier with his great seal:
Thamba has shown a flair for play-making and rolled to the hoop well. He also helped set up King McClure for a great 3-point look against Oklahoma State:
4) Jared Butler is the Big 12’s best freshman- That seemed like an impossible ask. He didn’t get to Baylor until late in the summer, and Kansas has Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson.
Butler has been superb. He’s hit 41% of his triples in league play and is 5th in conference play in assist rate. Those fantastic instincts helped him swipe the ball from Texas Tech twice, both led to easy buckets:
5) King McClure and company blasting away deep threes- McClure was Co-Big 12 Player of the Week last week after his career high 29 point game against Oklahoma State and 7-of-11 shooting from deep.
McClure, Butler and Mason are firing away from well behind the line. When I interviewed McClure this summer, we talked about Villanova’s offense launching those deep threes. It turned out their percentage didn’t change much taking deep threes. McClure said, “If you have range like that, it can mess with a team’s defense. The college floor is so compact.” Texas Tech’s defense wasn’t prepared for this:
McClure also told me this summer that, “When you’re able to stretch out and the defense has to move with you, it creates more space and driving lanes for the big..the help side defender has to make a decision, am I going to tag the roller?” Texas Tech decided to tag the roller—something that should portend well against Kansas State (the Big 12’s other best defense) because they also love to do that—and Mason stepped way back and made it:
Hope going forward:
Mario Kegler has also looked way better recently. When West Virginia cut the deficit to single digits, he powered through and hit two giant shots. He’s fired a couple threes lately with less of a hitch in his shoot too.
In four games without their best player, Baylor has built the best offense in the league. They were the only team to score more than 1 PPP against Texas Tech. They won in Stillwater and Morgantown. And they’ve shown a bevy of reasons to believe the dream lives on.