I attended Big 12 Media Days today and had the chance to speak for a while with Scott Drew, Flo Thamba and Matthew Mayer.
All gave me some great info, so here’s some stuff that sticks out (also been here a while, so maybe I’m just being lazy with this format!):
*Drew said Baylor will once again run their version of the “no middle defense.” When I asked Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams about so many teams running his defense now, he joked that it made him jealous to see Baylor run it to win a national title.
*Drew said that they’re more open on possible starting lineups, and those lineups could change during the season this year. He doesn’t think it’s fixed that the starting unit in game one will be the same to end the season.
*He said that they’ve dealt with more injuries this season than past years. LJ Cryer missed a lot of the offseason, but is now back healthy. Drew reported that Cryer is doing well.
*He was honest that he expects the team to not be as great at shot selection. With the departing four replaced by some younger guys, the new crew will have to figure out how to handle taking good shots.
*During the large media gathering, I asked Drew about replacing the core fore with new leadership. He said that Mayer, Adam Flagler, Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Thcathchoua stepped up.
*Strategically, I asked if fewer opponents will play drop pick-and-roll coverage after the Bears crushed that defense in some big games last season. Drew told me that it’s difficult to switch what a team does, so teams are usually better just running what they’re best at running. He said they tend to do well against teams that switch screens.
*I asked for a comparison for new point guard James Akinjo, and he said that Akinjo has combinations of other guards that Baylor’s had. He’s a combo guard that Mayer and Thamba said can play strong defense.
*Drew was optimistic about the freshmen. Kendall Brown and Langston Love played at the highest level, and he said freshmen that come in are more prepared to play than in year’s past. The staff, including Drew, are also super impressed with Jeremy Sochan.
*Mayer said that Love has improved the most since his arrival on campus
*Thamba can speak three languages. He told me that he thinks in English, but that during the title game, he spoke with Tchamwa Tchatchoua in French, which appeared to surprise Gonzaga.
*A more humble Mayer: he was not surprised and understood not getting more support for Big 12 Player of the Year because he came off the bench.
*When I told Mayer that Flagler told me last week that he was clapping less, Mayer agreed. He said his clapping impeded Akinjo’s focus, so expect less clapping from Mayer. But Mayer said that he is still going to shoot a lot.
I also talked to a few other coaches and players:
*I talked to Bob Huggins for a few moments. Huggins said with rule changes it’s difficult to run the press like they did. He said that he was allowed to stop wearing suits because he sweated through one, which led his A.D. to lie to the president and claim that Huggins refused to wear one. Huggins also said that he thinks college basketball should stop letting the NCAA have any involvement and let the schools just capture tournament revenue.
*I was surprised how many people just didn’t ask questions during the main 10 minute blurb with coaches. That time is already booked. People might want “exclusive information” but everything becomes public online. The ultimate faux pas, for me, is the number of folks that asked questions during the one-on-one that had been asked and answered during the main time.
*King McClure said that Jared Butler is the Baylor GOAT of the modern era. He had a few funny stories on the walk over to the T-Mobile Center.