Coming off a win in the NCAA Tournament, the Bears believe they could have one of the best teams in school history. With the return of Tristan Clark, Jared Butler, Mark Vital, Devonte Bandoo, Matthew Mayer and Freddie Gillespie—couple with the additions of Davion Mitchell and Macio Teague—the Bears were picked second in the Big 12.
With expectations high in Waco, we’ll take a look at Baylor’s scholarship players, then turn to some big questions about the squad. Finally, we’ll close with a game-by-game prediction.
Clark was Baylor’s best player during non-conference play and through Baylor’s first two Big 12 games last season. Then he injured his knee and missed the rest of the campaign.
The 6-foot-9 forward led the nation in field goal percentage. He’s nearly unstoppable, and if you didn’t double him, there was no hope:
The Bears need Clark to return to his sophomore year form to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title. Clark’s knee recovery is going to take some time. He’ll be ready to start the season, and he had nice flashes against Texas A&M in a secret scrimmage. When Clark returns to form, the Bears are a national title contender.
Butler was Baylor’s best player for much of the second half of the season. He dropped 31 points at Allen Fieldhouse last season, which was the most of any visiting player.
I spoke with Butler this summer, and he expects Baylor to contend for the Big 12 title.
The Bears will need Butler to be as accurate from 3-point range as he was during conference play in 2019. Butler finished 7th during Big 12 play in shooting from beyond the arc (42.4%).
Vital is probably the league’s most underrated player. With Clark missing almost all of conference play, Baylor survived playing lineups with the 6-foot-5 forward at the five.
Vital is one of the country’s best offensive rebounders. He finished 16th nationally in offensive rebounding rate and helped Baylor finish second nationally in that category.
With Clark and Gillespie set to get more minutes, Vital will need to have a better season from outside of the paint. The Bears know Vital will be a monster defensively and on the boards. They just need a little more offense from him.
Mitchell is eligible after sitting out a season following his transfer from Auburn. Mitchell will split point guard duties with Butler.
Since A.J. Walton, Baylor hasn’t had any guard this talented defensively. King McClure could guard multiple positions, but Mitchell’s on-ball defense is insane. He’s a big reason Baylor thinks they’ll be much better than their underwhelming mark of 75th nationally in defensive efficiency a year ago.
Mitchell needs to be a competent 3-point shooter. He shot just 29% on 52 attempts as a freshman.
Nobody is more likely to make a leap than Bandoo. The senior guard was instrumental in Baylor’s comeback victory against Texas last February. He was Baylor’s best player in their summer trip to Italy.
Bandoo will likely put the ball on the floor more this season. While his 44% 3-point shooting during Big 12 play portends another strong shooting season, the athletic guard will look to break more men off the dribble.
Before Clark went out, it was a fair question whether Gillespie even belonged at this level.
They said I couldn't make a @BigFreddieG highlight video set to "Walk it Out." Take that for data! pic.twitter.com/be7dAeb6uS— Kendall (@kendallkaut) February 10, 2019
Gillespie worked a quality short jumper with nice defensive instincts. He’s one of the smartest guys to come through Baylor, and he’ll be counted on to play major minutes.
The UNC-Asheville transfer hit 43% of his 217 triples as a sophomore. With Mitchell and Butler getting to the hoop, and Clark drawing double teams, Teague just needs to hit open shots.
Teague will play against quality wings. The Bears need him to contain some of the league’s best players in man-to-man.
Mario Kegler’s departure gives Mayer the chance to prove he’s ready to go. He flashed brilliance against Arizona and TCU. And he had stretches where he looked like a disaster.
Mayer is reminiscent of Taurean Prince. There are moments where you know this guy is going to be phenomenal. But he hasn’t quite put it all together. That’s going to happen someday. If it can happen this season, the 2020 Bears are going to be ridiculous. If not, they’ll take these moments when they get them:
He may not get too many minutes this year, but Thamba is one heck of a screener. He started moving well on defense, and his future is bright.
Turner is ahead of where Baylor thought he’d be this early. But the Bears have too many wings and guards ahead of him this season. Expect him to be a big deal in 2022.
Are the Bears really capable of winning the league?
Yes. Baylor ranks No. 13 on KenPom and No. 18 on Torvik. Both of those ranking systems are probably underrating Mitchell, who played behind a series of ridiculous guards at Auburn two seasons ago.
Most of the Kansas hype is built around thinking Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike are worlds better than any other duo in the league. Butler and Clark might be better than them. Butler outplayed Dotson in Allen Fieldhouse, and Clark—when healthy—is a different kind of unstoppable.
Kansas also has to figure out their pieces. We’ll see if Kansas can actually play Azubuike with Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack. Those lineups don’t give the Jayhawks much spacing.
Vital, Butler and Clark give the Bears a top three as good as nearly any in college basketball. They have a young guy in Mayer capable of making a giant leap. A steady presence in Gillespie, a defensive monster in Mitchell and two exceptional 3-point shooters. That’s a very strong roster to battle anyone else in this conference.
How can the Bears replace Makai Mason, King McClure and Mario Kegler?
The Bears had their best run when Mason was healthy last year. Kegler really figured it out late and McClure could play four defensive positions. That’s a pretty big core to lose.
But the Bears really believe in their new guys. Mitchell will be one of the Big 12’s best defenders. Teague can light it up from deep.
Most importantly, Baylor believes in the growth of their guys. Bandoo should be the team’s most improved player. Getting Clark back is better than any new Big 12 player. And Vital might have some range:
♂️ pic.twitter.com/Udz3tAGUlN— Mark Vital Jr. (@MarkVitalJr) September 21, 2019
Baylor’s defense was pretty bad down the stretch, how can we count on this year’s defense?
KenPom has Baylor at No. 17 on defense. Torvik has Baylor at No. 73 on defense. That’s a seismic gap.
Baylor’s defense was pretty spectacular with Clark. They had a top 25 defense when he went out. Clark was a force inside, and he gave the Bears needed depth. When Vital picked up four fouls in the NCAA Tournament against Gonzaga, he had to just stick his hand up when playing post defense because if he’d attempted to body the defender, he risked a fifth foul. Clark’s return allows Vital to know he can risk a final foul.
I’d expect Baylor to play more man-to-man this season. Kegler’s departure means that Baylor will play a lot of three guard looks. Clark and Gillespie can guard most big men without the need for double teams. Vital can switch and guard any position.
The Bears should eventually be a good defensive team. Mitchell is the real deal on that end. And playing big makes it harder to score at the rim. Per hoop-math, in 2019, 26% of Baylor’s opponent shots were at the rim. With larger lineups in 2018, Baylor allowed 21% of their opponent shots at the rim in 2018. The larger 2019 lineups should make scoring near the hoop tough:
I’d expect Baylor to have a very good effective field goal defense—the Bears were just 105th in that category last season. With a larger lineup forcing opponents away from the hoop, and Mitchell pestering opponent point guard on the perimeter, teams will settle for worse shots than they did against the banged up 2019 Bears. Baylor needs to prove they can be a top 15 defense, but expecting a top 30 defense is very reasonable.
Baylor’s offense was great playing small last season. Why can we expect them to be okay playing big?
Baylor’s offense took off during Big 12 play. During non-conference, the Bears were the second worst 3-point shooting team in power seven conferences. During conference play, Baylor was the Big 12’s best 3-point shooting team.
What needs untangled from those two facts: did playing smaller cause Baylor to suddenly make shots? Or did Baylor just start making threes? Was there something about playing small that changed Baylor, or did Baylor just happen to change while playing small?
The takeaway I have is that a lot of guys shot better during conference play. Clark forced a ton of double teams during non-conference play, and the Bears missed a lot of open 3-point shots.
The Bears can still shoot a lot of threes with Clark. He gives Baylor two options. First, he can pass out of double teams for open threes.
Second, he can run pick-and-rolls. That forces the defense to decide if they’ll have someone leave their man and tag him (bump onto him to slow his roll) or leave him open. If someone tags Clark, then a shooter can get wide open:
Baylor can still get quality 3-point shots with Clark and bigger lineups. But the Bears are going to play plenty of three guard looks. Bandoo and Teague will play a lot at small forward. Each of those guys shot better than 40% from deep in their most recent seasons.
Mitchell’s 3-point shooting will probably determine how well Baylor does from three. He hit 28.8% of his threes on only 52 attempts at Auburn. And he hit just 67.7% of his free throws. Those aren’t inspiring numbers for a quality 3-point shooter. Mitchell’s had a full off-season to work on having more consistent form. With his ridiculous speed, plenty of defenders will go under screens against him until he proves that he can make shots. His ability to hit threes could be the difference between the second or third weekend in the NCAA Tournament.
If Baylor’s playing three guards, are they going to still be a good offensive rebounding team?
Yes. Baylor has ranked in the top 10 in offensive rebounding rate every season since 2014.
The Bears lost Rico Gathers—one of the best offensive rebounders in the country— after the 2015 season, and they dropped from No. 1 to No. 3.
Baylor was No. 2 last season in offensive rebounding rate. Vital was 16th nationally in that category. Gillespie would have ranked 51st if he’d played enough minutes to qualify. Clark is a monster on the offensive glass too.
Baylor’s offensive rebounding isn’t built around the small forward getting boards. It’s built around having guys that play center and power forward that can gobble second chances. That will remain consistent for Baylor.
Baylor’s finally going to play fast, right?
Maybe, but I’m not sold on this. Jordan Sperber’s covered how everyone believes they’ll play fast before the ball is tipped:
Sources confirm 2019-20 will be the fastest season in the history of basketball: pic.twitter.com/x4gIbR4tIE— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) April 17, 2019
Here are Baylor’s offensive tempo ranks this decade:
It’s possible Baylor believes they’ll play faster. Mitchell and Butler are ridiculous with the ball. And Vital can get it going in the open court too:
I don’t believe Baylor will play that fast. The Bears like to run quite a few sets. Those plays, and even their offensive identity, have changed a bit with their personnel. But when we have six straight years of Baylor slowing it down, it’s easy to fall back into playing slowly. The Bears have been top 25 offensively eight times this decade. Only Duke has more top 25 offensive efficiency seasons this decade. And when things are going well, most people don’t change things. Scott Drew and the staff are going to want to call a lot of sets. They’re going to want their bigs near the hoop to offensive rebound. And I’m just not buying this is the year Baylor plays fast.
Baylor could try and play faster to deal with the turnover problem:
But Baylor can live with turning it over. Up-tempo football teams tend to commit a lot of penalties. Teams that play smaller tend to give up more shots near the rim. Life is about trade-offs, and the Baylor offense has accepted that they turn it over more at their methodical pace.
Speeding things up could reduce Baylor’s turnovers. With fewer passes, there are fewer chances to make mistakes; Isolation teams tend to have fewer turnovers. But the Bears hunt for better shots and second chances. I don’t think they’ll speed things up in hopes they’ll turn it over less. It’s really hard to change who you are when things are going well. And the Bears’ offense has been real and spectacular.
Is there any scenario where things go really poorly?
Two stick out. Even with Kegler’s departure, there are a ton of quality players. Mayer, Teague, Thamba and Gillespie are going to play less than they would on most teams. When things are going well, it’s easy to understand why you’re not playing. But if the Bears struggle, bad could become worse as guys struggle to stay together.
I’m less inclined to believe that disaster with Kegler gone. He was going to play 25+ minutes every game. Those minutes are going to be spread out, and while some guys aren’t going to play as much as they could in a lot of places, there should still be a decent gap between some of the top guys and the next guys up.
The other issue is if Baylor sustains a few injuries. The Bears are still a tournament team if Clark is gone or can’t get close to his early 2018 form. But he can be one of the country’s top big men. It’s not easy to replace him.
Butler and Mitchell will make the back-court go. Lose one of them, and suddenly Baylor’s going to have a lot tougher time breaking guys down. Vital is a defensive monster and controls the boards. Nobody else on the roster can replicate those guys.
Baylor’s a deep team. But every contender—and Baylor is a contender—has guys they can’t lose. The Jayhawks went from a top five team with Azubuike to a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament without him. Baylor’s pieces fit well, but one or two major injuries would leave an almost irreplaceable void.
This assumes Baylor stays healthy for nearly all of the season. If Clark, Butler, Vital and Mitchell play nearly the full campaign, then feel free to old takes expose these predictions. I have never predicted Baylor would have the kind of season I’m about to predict.
They’re KenPom No. 259. After last season’s debacle against Texas Southern, the Bears will be ready to go early and win.
The Huskies just lost a scrimmage to a pretty bad TCU squad. But the Huskies were without Quade Green, the Kentucky transfer who is now eligible, and Jaden McDaniels, a five star recruit. They’ll be much better against Baylor.
Washington plays a 2-3 zone. The Bears crushed Syracuse’s 2-3 zone in March by embracing the three:
I think Baylor has enough athletes to keep up with Washington, and they’ll work the Huskies’ zone. I’ll take Baylor to start 2-0.
Texas State and Ohio
The Bears are much better than this duo. KenPom gives Baylor at least a 95% chance in all these games. The Bears roll.
Myrtle Beach Games 2 and 3:
Baylor plays Ohio in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, but barring a massive upset, they’ll advance to the second round. They’d then play the winner of Utah-Coastal Carolina. Utah is ranked 114 and Coastal Carolina is 179. I’ll say Utah wins.
Baylor would be around an 85% favorite against the Utes. They should win that one too.
If Baylor makes the final, they would most likely play Villanova. The Wildcats are ranked No. 8 on KenPom and No. 20 on Torvik. Mississippi State is ranked No. 53 on KenPom, and they could take down Villanova.
Let’s say Baylor takes on Villanova though. Jay Wright or Roy Williams is probably the coach of the decade, but the 2020 Wildcats seem a little overrated. They lost Phil Booth and Eric Pashcall. They added a McDonald’s All-American in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Collin Gillespie is somehow just a junior. This one is a toss up.
I’m taking Baylor though. The Bears should be able to focus on Villanova’s 3-point attack, and the Wildcats are a year away from being back where they were most of the decade. Wright and his program deserve immense credit, but I think they’re a bit overrated this year.
Maryland Eastern Shore, Tennessee Martin and Jackson State:
Baylor plays Arizona and Butler between these games, but let’s dispense with this trio. Baylor will win. This group all ranks sub 300. Barring a stupid day, Baylor wins all of these.
This is a difficult team to predict. The AP ranks them No. 21. Torvik has them No. 60 and KenPom has them No. 24.
Arizona wasn’t dominant in an exhibition game against Chico State. Take whatever value you want in that one. But the Wildcats have suspended guard Devonaire Doutrive indefinitely, and Brandon Williams will miss all of the season. Their guards are going to have a tough time against Baylor.
Baylor has better talent, and I think Scott Drew is a much better game coach than Sean Miller. With the game in Waco, I’ll take Baylor by 10.
Torvik ranks the Bulldogs No. 62. KenPom likes them more, as they are No. 33.
The Bears have more high quality players. Only Kamar Baldwin ranks as a high-quality starter on Torvik. Despite a likely resurgence, Butler was just 16-17 last year. They add a high-impact graduate transfer and a top 100 recruit. Still, they were picked 8th in the Big East, and the Bears should be favored by around seven points in this one. I’ll take Baylor.
I finally have the Bears losing a non-conference game. The Gators are the No. 1 team on Torvik. They have five high-quality starters, including Kerry Blackshear, a transfer from Virginia Tech. Their size at so many spots will be an issue for the Bears. I’ll take the Gators to win.
Big 12 play:
BTW, OSU's Mike Boynton was the Big 12 coach who didn't pick KU to win the league (remember last year, he picked K-State to win the league ... and was right). This year, Baylor was his choice: "I like their depth, their size, their experience, just the whole package."— Jesse Newell (@jessenewell) October 23, 2019
Baylor was picked second in the Big 12. Kansas was the pick of eight coaches. Texas Tech received the other first place vote.
Ashley Hodge of SicEm365 and I had a few podcasts discussing the Big 12 and Baylor hoops here.
The Bears open the season at home against Texas. I’m actually bullish on the Longhorns. Shaka Smart hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in four seasons, and he lost Jaxson Hayes and Dylan Osetwkowski.
Texas should be good. Luke Yaklich left Michigan to run the Longhorn’s defense. He was Michigan’s defensive guru, and the Wolverines ranked No. 3 and No. 2 in defensive efficiency in 2018 and 2019. I also think Osetkowski is addition by subtraction. Kamaka Hepa is better, and Andrew Jones played well in their scrimmages.
Baylor is a bit better though. That should be good for a season split. The Bears should win in Waco, and Texas should win in Austin. But neither team has a great home-court advantage, so don’t be surprised if each squad wins the road game.
I’m not buying Texas Tech. They were rolled by UTEP in a scrimmage. The Miners are better this year. They’re not that great though. And while exhibition games shouldn’t be everything, Texas Tech played their dudes a lot of minutes:
FINAL box score in UTEP’s 70-60 win over Texas Tech in tonight’s #ElPasoStrong exhibition game. Daryl Edwards with a game-high 24 points, Bryson Williams with 19 points 9 rebounds, Jordan Lathon adds 16 points 8 rebounds. #KTSM9Sports pic.twitter.com/YvychmrxbN— Andy Morgan (@AndyMorganTV) October 13, 2019
The Red Raiders lost six of their seven best players. The popular retort to that is that the 2019 Red Raiders had to replace Keenan Evans, Zhaire Smith and Zach Smith. Chris Beard will just do it again!
Let’s slow down with “Beard is God.” He’s great. Mark Adams is a defensive genius. But their defens focusing on not allowing anyone to go middle isn’t as foreign to Big 12 coaches. Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens were vital to what they did. Nori Odiase was supremely underrated. And who on the Red Raiders is going to become a top five player like Jarrett Culver? Is Davide Moretti ready to be the focal point of an offenses? Are we sure Jahmi’us Ramsey is a top 10 Big 12 player?
CJ Moore of The Athletic dropped Texas Tech to ninth in his preseason rankings. That’s lower than I have them, but I’m much closer to reality than this idea that Beard can just field a top 10 team every season. Texas Tech didn’t make the NCAA Tournament his first season in Lubbock. That’s more likely to happen in year four than them repeating as Big 12 champs.
Baylor wins both of these games this year. Baylor has better players, and when healthy, they crushed Texas Tech’s defense in Waco. The Bears had the second most efficient offensive game of anyone that played Texas Tech last year. Only Virginia—in the national championship game—had a better day.
With Mitchell and Butler, the Red Raiders won’t be able to stop Baylor from getting to their spots. Baylor pulls the sweep.
Can Kansas actually play two bigs against top 25 teams? That’s the big question. If they can, the Jayhawks might win a national title.
Count me among the skeptics about Kansas’ ability to play big. McCormack and De Sousa need to prove they can defend guards and wings. Azubuike, even with the weight loss, has a tough time defending empty side pick-and-rolls:
Those issues might be surmountable. Dotson is a monster. Marcus Garrett might now be a competent shooter. Agbaji looks like he’s made the leap.
This feels like a split. Baylor’s catastrophic shooting day in Allen Fieldhouse lasts year ruined Butler’s fantastic game. As home field/court advantage becomes less pronounced in sports—perhaps best exemplified by road teams winning every World Series game—the Bears could finally win in Lawrence this year. But with how good Dotson and Azubuike are, I’ll call a split.
The Cyclones lost too much to be a Big 12 contender this season. The best case for the Cyclones is that the team will have better chemistry this year. Even if their collective talent is lower, they won’t have Lindell Wigginton and Talen Horton-Tucker hoisting ill advised shots like they did too many times last year.
Talent matters, and the Cyclones don’t have enough. Tyrese Haliburton was a monster for the U19 team. But he has to prove he can be a high usage guy. Prentiss Nixon was good at Colorado State, but he needs to be more efficient, and that’s tough to do against better competition.
As they have so often recently, Baylor will sweep Iowa State. The Cyclones aren’t physical enough to overwhelm Baylor, and the guards will get to the hoop too easily.
I’m a Cowboys truther. They’re going to be good. Yes, they went 12-20 last season. But they return everyone, and after car burglaries forced them to play six guys for much of 2019, they have depth.
Cam McGriff, Lindy Waters, Thomas Dziagwa and Yor Anei are one of the top four combos in the conference. The top three can rain it from anywhere, and with no depth, they finished 46th in 3-point percentage last year.
The Cowboys will have a fantastic shooting day in a few road venues. Hopefully that’s not in Waco and is in Lawrence. Those kind of small but lucky moments could determine who wins the league.
I’ll call a sweep. The Cowboys shoot so well and they have the bodies to match Baylor down low. Boynton is an awesome coach, and he finally has a full roster. But Baylor has better players and avoids a ridiculous Cowboy shooting day.
The Bears will sweep the Sooners. I think Oklahoma is overrated. Baylor knocked them off by 30 last season. They should be able to challenge Brady Manek again:
Lon Kruger’s team adds Austin Reaves from Wichita State. He’ll help them space the floor. But they’ll miss Christian James, Aaron Calixte and Rashard Odomes. What remains will contend for an NCAA Tournament appearance. But the Bears will get another sweep.
The Horned Frogs should be pretty terrible. Desmond Banes was an All-Big 12 selection. RJ Nembhard had some good moments. And then everyone else graduated, went pro or transferred from an NIT team. I’m not seeing it for TCU.
Jamie Dixon even wanted out. The TCU alumnus wanted the UCLA job. The Bruins couldn’t muster enough money to buy him out, so he’s back in Fort Worth.
Baylor needs to sweep TCU. They’re not as bad as the 2013 Horned Frogs—a team that beat Big 12 champion Kansas—but they’re not good. A Big 12 title contender that doesn’t have Allen Fieldhouse needs to sweep teams like TCU. Baylor will.
The Wildcats make me nervous. They play a tough and physical defense. Barry Brown, Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade are gone. But Cartier Diarra should be exceptional on offense. Xavier Sneed is a lock-down defender. And Makol Mawien can handle a little more on offense.
Kansas State has swept Baylor the last two seasons. With Brown and Stokes gone, I think this will be a split. That duo made life a disaster for Baylor’s guards. What remains is good, but not as good as the Big 12 title team they had last season.
The Mountaineers are the most difficult Big 12 team to peg. They were horrible last season, as Bob Huggins team finished 15-21. They managed to knock off Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament, and they add Oscar T. a top 40 recruit.
Huggins will likely press again. The Mountaineers have more depth, and with the off-court drama gone in Morgantown, he should be able to get buy-in from his guys.
The Bears have the guards to handle the press. In 2015, the Bears won all three games against a Mountaineer team that should be better than this team. That team won because the three guards (counting Royce O’Neale as a guard) were able to break the press. Teague and Bandoo should be able to play a similar role.
Huggins will have West Virginia back to contending for the league title soon. He’s a year away, and Baylor wins both games.
Big 12 Tournament:
That puts Baylor at 15-3 in conference entering the Big 12 Tournament. That should be enough to win the league. Kansas could go 16-2, but the Jayhawks will be a streaky 3-point team, and as mentioned, I’m not buying their ability to play two bigs. I think the Jayhawks finish 14-4 and struggle on the road.
Baylor finally wins the Big 12 Tournament too. With the No. 1 seed, Baylor would avoid playing Kansas until the championship. Kansas has the advantage of getting to play in Kansas City, but the Jayhawks aren’t the same dominant team in Kansas City that they are in Lawrence. The 2017 Jayhawks lost to Oregon in the Elite Eight there. The 2012 Jayhawks made the national title game, but they lost to Davidson at the Sprint Center. A better Baylor team—something I realize most people disagree about—beats Kansas to win the Big 12 Tournament.
That would put Baylor at 30-4 entering the NCAA Tournament. That should earn Baylor a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be their highest seed in the 64 team era.
Baylor has a great roster and they can throw multiple defenses at opponents. They have one of the country’s best big men with Clark and a bevy of good guards, including a dual-point guard lineup with Butler and Mitchell that will give teams fits.
I have Baylor losing in the national title game to Michigan State. I can understand someone thinking, “If you’re already making a prediction this outside of the mainstream, why not just pick Baylor to win the title?” Because I’m probably someone that never can give myself the nicest thing. I always assume even in the best scenario—and this is the best scenario anyone is predicting—things can still go a little wrong. Michigan State has the best roster, and finally gets it done again.
When LeBron James won the 2013 NBA title, Bill Simmons asked him about the luck they needed to win that title. If Chris Bosh doesn’t get an offensive rebound, or if Ray Allen doesn’t hit a crazy 3-point attempt, the Spurs would have captured the championship. LeBron put it well, “You know, Bill, you need a little bit of luck to win an NBA championship.” That same principle applies in college. Over a single elimination tournament, the best team rarely wins. But one of the best usually does.
The Bears are a unique fit of luck and talent coming together. If Clark stays healthy last season, he might have gone pro. If Butler doesn’t need to leave Alabama, Baylor doesn’t have their star point guard. If Baylor doesn’t keep strong relationships in recruiting, they don’t add Mitchell. They landed Gillespie because of a contact with Jared Nuness, Baylor’s Director of Player Development.
Baylor’s also lucky with their coaching staff. If Scott Drew gets a better block/charge call in 2010, maybe he wins that title and leaves Baylor. Jerome Tang is close to getting a head coaching job.
Baylor has their best team in school history, and their coaching staff is in the best position to take advantage of that talent. Disaster always looms in life. Maybe an injury or two derails the Bears. Maybe the pieces don’t fit as well as I think. But Bears were close to winning the Big 12 and making the Final Four a few times last decade. In the first year of the 20’s, the Bears will have their best season ever and hang multiple banners.