By the time the Baylor basketball team takes the floor against Iowa State next Tuesday, it will have been 3 full weeks of off time, including 6 postponed games. This hasn’t been the first time the Bears have been hit with a COVID pause, but it is by far the longest. Coach Drew’s team has answered every challenge this season, and now with less than a month to go in the regular season, the team will once again have to overcome adversity.
There is no doubt that questions surrounding the teams conditioning after such a long break will be at the forefront. In a sport where building chemistry through the natural flow of games matters immensely, I wonder if the Bears will have the legs to finish the season strong against some stiff competition; Baylor will play both West Virginia and Kansas in span of 3 days shortly after taking on the Cyclones. It will be three games in just five days; that’s a lot for college basketball.
There’s also going to be some interesting coaching decisions that will need to be made. Baylor was coming off the best performance of the year and the rotations and minutes seemed to be set for the most. Assuming the Bears come out of the gate struggling with conditioning, does Coach Drew keep the same rotations that were successful or shorten up the minutes and even add Cryer more to the mix? That would help keep players fresh in the short term, but at the risk of not building back up to the previous rotations as quickly.
The results have been mixed with other schools. Gonzaga had a pretty long pause earlier in the season and of course has remained the #1 team in the nation. In addition, Michigan came off a weeks long pause and beat a ranked Wisconsin squad. Others have not been as successful. Villanova has dropped two games since returning to action, and Texas took a couple of Ls after going through some postponements of their own.
Obviously, the hope is that Baylor has no trouble with any of these questions. The question regarding conditioning will be a non-factor because of a productive bench, and the leadership from Butler, Mitchell, and Teague will make sure the chemistry returns to form. A Big 12 Championship and possibly more are on the horizon, so certainly motivation should not be a problem.