I hope you all had a great Feast Week, Thanksgiving, and are nearly done with Christmas shopping. We're into December now which means it is both the time to hear Mariah Carey incessantly for the next three weeks and also that Baylor men's basketball is in its final month before Big XII play starts. The Bears will have 5 games to build on their strong 7-0 November wherein they won the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis.
In my last post, on Michigan State, I missed the mark in terms of it being a close game. The good guys dominated the Spartans in the second half and spared us all the torture of a nail biter on Black Friday. I was pleased to have been right about Akinjo's bounce back game (leading the team with 15 points, 5 assists, 3 steals, and only 3 turnovers) after his rough outing against VCU (6 points, 2 assists, and 7 turnovers on 1/6 from the field). I was also pleased to see Baylor's defense force 19 turnovers (I predicted 18+).
Game 8 (Victory Lap Game): Saturday, December 4, 2021, at 4:00 PM CT in the Ferrell Center (Waco, Texas) and on ESPN+
Opponent: University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions (1-8), SWAC (0-0), KenPom Rank (357/358)
This program does not have a long illustrious history in men's basketball. They have one NCAA Tournament appearance in their history (2010). Over the last 2 seasons, they have a combined record of 8-47. They have not had a winning record in any of the last 8 seasons. Last season's team had 7 players average more than 6 points per game (these same 7 players were the only ones on the team to average more than 15 MPG); 6 of those 7 players are no longer with the team. This year, the first under a new coach and with a significantly different looking roster than last season, can definitely be considered a rebuilding year. The results on the court match up to that as the team opened the season with 7 consecutive losses (all of them by 12+ points and 5 by 20+ points). Their only win on the season came in their only home game of the year, against Arkansas Baptist (JUCO). The only area where UAPB is doing well so far is free throw shooting (they rank 28th nationally in FT% at 77.9% for the season).
Solomon Bozeman - Head Coach - 1st Season with program. The native of Little Rock, Arkansas played for both the South Florida Bulls and the Arkansas - Little Rock Trojans. He spent 7 years as an assistant coach at Abilene Christian, Arkansas - Little Rock, and Oral Roberts before taking the Pine Bluff job. He is an outspoken Christian who emphasizes integrity and character. He has a reputation as a strong recruiter from his previous stops.
Shawn Williams - #55 Senior 6'1" Guard - Little Rock native started his collegiate career at East Carolina where he played his first 2 seasons and averaged over 12 PPG. He then spent a season with New Mexico State before spending last year with Nicholls State. This is his first year with the Golden Lions and his final season of eligibility. In his previous 4 years playing, he appeared in 91 games and averaged 9.6 PPG. His career scoring efficiency is less than impressive (37% from the field and 35% from deep). Over 67% of his career FGAs are three-pointers. To start this season, he is averaging 16 PPG on 41% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. He also has developed as a facilitator, leading the team in APG and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Kylen Milton - #1 Sophomore 6'4" Guard - Arkansas native played for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers last year before coming closer to home this season. He has already matched last season's game appeared in and has gone from less than 6 MPG at WKU to nearly 33 MPG this year. He is averaging over 12 PPG on 36% from the field and 33% from deep (over 55% of his FGAs this year have been three-pointers).
Brandon Brown - #11 Junior 6'5" Guard - Memphis native is a transfer from Itawamba Community College (a JUCO in Mississippi). He us the team leader in rebounds and steals. He is an efficient scorer (45% from the field) with limited range (4/14 [28%] from deep on the season). He is an athletic wing and disruptive defender.
Brahm Harris - #14 Junior 6'6" Forward - Arkansas native is a transfer from Three Rivers College (a JUCO in Connecticut) where he averaged over 13 PPG on 36% from deep. His scoring efficiency this year leaves a lot to be desired (24% from the field and 7/35 [20%] from deep).
Trey Sampson - #23 Junior 6'9" Forward - Iowa native is a transfer from Division II Northeastern State (in Oklahoma), where he averaged nearly 14 PPG. This year he has been a high-volume, medium-efficiency scorer (13 PPG on 41% from the field). His 3P shot has looked ugly thus far (20% on 3.5 attempts per game). He has made a strong impact on the defensive end (leading the team in blocks and also averaging more than 1.8 steals per 40 minutes).
Dequan Morris - #5 Senior 6'4" Guard - Pine Bluff native missed the season opener against Creighton and has not played in any of the last 6 games. He is not listed as being injured and it does not make a lot of sense that he would be benched for poor performance, he is the only major contributor from last year's team that remains on the roster, and he played fairly well in the 2 games he has appeared in this season (7 PPG on 55% from the field). In his career, he is a high-efficiency scorer (51% from the field). His career 3P% is 24.1 although he does not take many (less than 9% of his career FGAs are three-pointers).
Kshun Stokes - #0 Junior 6'2" Guard - Alabama native has gone from a deep bench player in his first 2 seasons (8 MPG) to a regular fixture in the rotation as a junior (16 MPG). He is a low-efficiency scorer (37% from the field and 27% from deep).
AJ Stredic - #15 Junior 6'8" Forward - Bay City, Texas (near Houston) native is a low-volume, low-efficiency (38% from the field on 1.1 FGAs per game) big man. He primarily absorbs fouls and rebounds.
Gabriel Vargas - #4 Freshman 6'5" Guard - Miami native has appeared in 6 games this season (10 MPG) and has struggled mightily so far (2/14 [14%] from the field) to contribute in any meaningful way.
Jaylan Thomas - #3 Sophomore 6'8" Forward - Tulsa native has appeared in 5 games this season (10 MPG) and has had a difficult time scoring (5/17 [29%] from the field). He is a transfer from Murray State College (a JUCO in Oklahoma).
Travonta Doolittle - #2 Senior 6'4" Guard - Arkansas native is another transfer from Itawamba Community College (like Brown above). He is a deep bench piece (6 MPG in 30 games played in this year and last). He has struggled as a scorer (30% from the field).
Dreshaun Doyne - #30 Freshman 6'8" Forward - Little Rock native is a deep bench player (34 minutes played in 4 games this season). He is 0/2 from the field on the year.
Isaiah Haralson - #10 Junior 6'2" Guard - Pearland, Texas (near Houston) native is a deep bench player (27 minutes in 5 games this season). He hit a three-pointer in the last game against Iowa State (his only points on the season).
Omar Parchman - #22 Senior 6'8" Forward - Arkansas native is a deep bench guy (37 minutes in 7 games this season). He has 4 total points in those games on 25% from the field.
Amadou Fall - #34 Junior 6'10" Center - Senegal native is another Three Rivers Community College transfer (like Harris above). He has not appeared in a game yet this season.
UAPB's December 1, 2021, game against Iowa State (KenPom Rank: 79/358) in Ames, Iowa. Final Score: The Cyclones defeated the Golden Lions 83-64.
- Recap: ISU took its first lead with less than 11 minutes remaining in the first half. The Cyclones went on a 14-0 run in the middle part of the first half to build a 10-point lead. The lead was 16 going into halftime. The lead grew to as much as 28 in the second half.
- Offense: They take a ton of threes and even when the ball goes inside, it is often to create a look from deep. A lot of their shots come early in the shot clock (averaging over 70 possessions per 40 minutes).
- Defense: They play man-to-man defense and are reluctant to switch. They usually go under on ball screens. They sometimes fall out of position when off-ball defenders over help.
- Team Performance: Iowa State dominated several statistical categories including, most notably, the possession battle (ISU won the offensive glass 17-6 and turnovers forced 19-9). The Cyclones also had superior ball movement (assisted on 63% of their made FGs compared to 44% for UAPB).
- Individual Performance: Williams was the strongest performer (21 points, 2 boards, and 5 assists on 62% from the field and 57% from deep).
This figures to be as big of a mismatch as Baylor has had this season. Per KenPom, UAPB is one of the worst teams in the nation (only Mississippi Valley State is ranked lower) and Baylor is one of the best (only Gonzaga and Purdue are ranked higher). That said, the Golden Lions have played a tough schedule (27th in the nation) so far and will not back down to anyone (they led Creighton at halftime). Fun Fact: Baylor won the only ever meeting between these teams last year (winning 99-42). UAPB will take a lot of three-pointers (they rank 15th nationally in attempts and over 50% of their FGAs are three-pointers). However, they likely will not make many of these long-range shots. I would expect them to go about 8/27 (29%) from deep in the game. Baylor should dominate the possession battle by snagging offensive boards and forcing turnovers. I expect Cryer to have a solid game and for some of the deep bench guys for the Bears to get some run down the stretch. Baylor will defeat Arkansas Pine Bluff 87-59.