The 2014-2015 college basketball season tips-off tonight across the country. We here at ODB have already brought you an in-depth look at each player on the Bears' roster and a comprehensive primer on Baylor's new look on the court and on the bench. Today, we bring you some predictions from around the internet and make a few more of our own. Let's dive in.
The Dallas Morning News predicts Baylor to finish sixth in the conference. That article also includes a quick preview of each Big 12 team and a couple of nifty charts. Highly recommended.
College Basketball Talk highlights the major storylines in the Big 12 and predicts Baylor to finish sixth, squeezing into the NCAA tourney.
CBS Sports' Jerry Palm predicts Baylor will be among the last four teams to get into the Big Dance as a 12 seed.
Chip Patterson over at CBS Sports thinks Baylor will finish seventh in the conference as it struggles to overcome the huge loss of experience from last season.
Predictions I Will Inevitably Regret
What's a preseason without arbitrary predictions that have little to no chance of coming to fruition? Boring, that's what. Here are my ridiculous, indefensible predictions for how this team will shake out this season. Darthbear's own predictions can be found in the primer linked at the top.
MVP: Kenny Chery
Runner up: Royce O'Neale
I'm starting out with an easy one. It's arguable that Chery was last season's most valuable player, and as one of two returning seniors, Scott Drew will be looking to him to lead the team on the offensive end. Expect Chery to lead the team in scoring, assists, and expressionless faces after made shots (the hottest new advanced metric).
Sixth Man: Lester Medford
Runner up: Taurean Prince
I expect Medford to be the first guy off the bench to provide a jolt of energy and scoring. He's lighting quick, creates opportunities for teammates with his aggressiveness, and can be a feisty defender, despite his lack of size. He's the perfect fit for a sixth man.
The Gunner: Taurean Prince
Runner up: Lester Medford
Combine an increased offensive burden with a shooter's mentality, and you have the perfect recipe for Prince to lead the team in shot attempts. Prince will also lead the team in "No, no, no, no, YES" shot attempts, making him the most maddening and exhilarating player to watch this season.
The Mean Mugger: Rico Gathers
Runner up: Rico Gathers
It's not even a competition. Everyone else can just go home now.
Mr. Everything: Royce O'Neale
Runner up: Deng Deng
O'Neale will have to contribute in almost every facet of the game for Baylor to find success. Expect to see him do a little bit of everything.
The Inaugural Ish Wainwright Award: Johnathan Motley
Runner up: Ish Wainwright
What an upset! Motely will snag Wainwright's own award away from him. This prize goes to the player who, based on his physical capabilities and off-season hype, is expected to make an immediate impact as a young player but has some trouble making the adjustment to the next level. Last season, Wainwright, rightly or wrongly, was expected to do a lot for Scott Drew but never quite reached those expectations. This season, lots of people are expecting the Mot Man to come out swinging. I'm less certain. He does have a year of practice experience in his favor, but will that be enough to prepare him for the bright lights? I think we see Motley's role diminish as the season progresses as Scott Drew leans on more experienced players.
Midseason Switch Up: Deng Deng
Runner up: Al Freeman
Consider this a twofer with the Ish Wainwright Award. To maintain some modicum of size and athleticism, Drew will turn to his big man JUCO transfer as Motley struggles to produce consistently.
Early/Late Season Starters
Early: Chery, Freeman, O'Neale, Gathers, Motley
Late: Chery, O'Neale, Prince, Deng, Gathers
Having watched exactly zero practices, I have no way to justify these starter predictions other than "Scott Drew lineups start the season weird and finish the season predictable." Granted, that's maybe 70% of college basketball, but it's especially true for Drew. This is the man who inexplicably started A. J. Walton over Pierre Jackson for half a season. With only two returning starters, two upperclassmen who came off the bench last season, two redshirt freshmen, and two JUCO transfers, it's impossible to know how Drew will mix and match. Baylor might lead the nation in number of players started this season, if only because it can.
#WeirdBasketball All Stars
This select group of players best represents the #WeirdBasketball that Baylor will unleash on its opponents this season.
PG: Ish Wainwright -- At 6' 5", 245 lbs, and possessing the skills of a point guard, Wainwright is the single greatest anamoly on the roster.
SG: Lester Medford -- Standing 7 inches shorter than his backcourt partner, Medford might become Baylor's best off-ball threat to score.
SF: Royce O'Neale -- While O'Neale makes sense at small forward, consider him while partnered with Wainwright and Medford, particularly on defense. Those three players could mix and match against almost any combination of guards/wings that the opposing team could throw out there.
PF: Taurean Prince -- You'll never see a "power forward" try to get more buckets in your life.
C: Deng Deng -- Deng at "center" means Scott Drew could reach the pinnacle of #WeirdBasketball: A five-out offense where every player is a threat to shoot, handle, drive, and create from almost anywhere on the floor, with Medford being the only player unlikely to venture into the post on occasion. Defensively, they could switch on almost any assignment, with Medford the only player you worry about defending inside.
Quick Season Prediction
The Bears go 18-13 overall (assuming I correctly understand how that early season tournament works) and 8-10 in the regular season, finish 7th in the Big 12, and fail to overcome the Odd Year Curse, claiming a 1 or 2 seed in the NIT, where they reach Madison Square Garden but fall in the semis. This season's Bears have some talent, but too little experience and no game-changer in the middle. The Bears are a run-and-fun team who hemorrhage points on defense. Drew has yet to prove he can coach a capable man-to-man defense and doesn't have the requisite size to play his signature 2-3 zone.
Think I'm being too pessimistic? Head to comments and share your thoughts! Once again, be sure to check out the roster preview and primer linked at the top to be fully prepared for the season, as well as to get Darthbear's much more optimistic predictions.
Baylor faces off against McNeese State at 8:30 in the Ferrell Center. If you're in Waco, go cheer on your Bears, and give them a loud "Sic'em!" for me!