I think we as a fan base are far-removed enough from the end of the college football regular season to free up some of that brain power for some hoops talk!
It’s understandable that a good number of you aren’t… quite… there yet though. I get that. But it’s time. It’s time to run your suicide sprints and get into mental basketball shape.
What have you missed?
The first AP Poll had the Baylor Bears ranked 22nd, but the Bears have worked their way to #16. The Big XII seems to be the conference setting the pace for the rest of the nation with # of the top 25 teams.
In case you missed it, the NCAA also made some rule changes. The shot clock has been decreased from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. So far, this has had a significant impact on pace of play and scoring has increased by roughly 6 or 7 points.
Important Game: Oregon
Baylor’s lone loss came at the hands of a talented Oregon team. The second game of the season tipped at approximately 3:45am Central Time. Grad assistants were seen napping with those goggles that have eyes painted on them. #bodyclock
A 24-point first half did not help the cause. Baylor was able make it close late, but turnovers. Ohhhhh the turnovers. It’s hard to win when you give a talented offensive team 18 extra possessions. More on this later.
TL;DR Baylor played sloppily in an early season "figure it out" situation against a team that is experienced, talented, and likes to play an uptempo game. Also, the game happened so late and lasted long enough that Stephen Hawking was like "lol wtf".
HEEEHEHEHEHEEHEEEEEE Taurean Prince made the leap! Prince scored 30 points and made 4/7 from deep to lead the Bears over a very solid Vanderbilt squad.
TL;DR Baylor played the best basketball of the young season, besting a legitimate SEC team. Taurean Prince grew up in front of our eyes, scoring many basket points.
Are we good?
This team is lead by two very capable familiar faces: Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers. Prince has embraced the lead offensive role as opposed to the "energy / instant offensive burst" role from the bench. Rico continues to do Rico things, but with more offense peppered in. We will take a look at more player development details tomorrow.
But those two aren’t alone! After losing Kenny Chery and Royce O’Neale, consistent guard play was a large question going into this season. I can safely say that both starting point guard Lester Medford and combo creator/shot maker SEXY AL FREEMAN are both showing that can handle the responsibility. Both showed flashes of incredible talent, but sometimes forced drives and untimely turnovers blemished their performances.
Overall, ball movement has been fantastic. The Baylor offense thrives off sharing the ball and offensive rebounding. Gathers and Motley have the latter taken care of, so it’s up to the guard rotation to keep the ball whipping around the perimeter and making smart entry passes. So far so good...mostly.
Defensively this team is experimental! Scott Drew has brought out the man defense quickly and a lot more often this season, with pretty solid results. Baylor has a ton of quickness. And when you pair that quickness with length that the Bears have? And then you package all that into a few different schemes to keep the opponent on it’s toes? A compounding pyramid of problems for other teams.
But also maybe no?
The Bears have posted, let’s say, less than spectacular performances in terms of taking care of the ball. Last season came to an end primarily because of a 21-turnover performance against Georgia State.
Baylor has posted the following turnover totals this season: 13, 13, 13, 20*, 15*, 17*, 17*, 9 (yay!), 21*.
*This is not ideal.
While pace is up across the nation, and thereby increasing raw turnover numbers for most teams, this possession efficiency probably won’t cut it during conference play. Baylor turns it over too much, ranking 112th in the nation in total TO’s.
To compound the turnover issue, the Baylor offense can, at times, become stagnant. This is an issue with any college team, but the Bears catch this bug too often for my liking. Passing slowly around the perimeter (with no intention of setting up something else), no penetration, etc. This hasn’t hit Scott Drew’s squad too often this year, but it did for a stretch during the Oregon game.
But in all honesty? We have no idea how good or bad or how in-between this team is. The competition has been less than informational, save the Vanderbilt game. We will learn a lot more as fans after Saturday.
Would you like to know more?
25lbs of Ish Wainwright
FR Jake Lindsey
FR King McClure
JR Transfer Jo Acuil (tbd - not cleared medically)
FR Wendell Mitchell (likely redshirt)
Scott Drew has remained relatively steady with his rotations this year. The Baylor starting group:
PG Lester Medford - Has become an under-control play maker for this team, and showing flashes of what Kenny Chery could do from midrange.
SG Ish Wainwright - Ish is a bit of an enigma, doesn’t have good offensive stats, but still feels important. 1-3 impact plays a game, great ball handler for his size and build, pretty dang good court vision. Most effective when playing a point-forward position in the small lineups Drew likes to play for stretches. Ish is probably the designated "Glue Guy" a la Royce O’Neale with less shooting.
SF Taurean Prince - The Man. This team goes as TP goes. Leads (or co-leads) Big XII players in usage rate. Being asked to do so much more than he was last year, and for the most part, delivering.
PF Rico Gathers - Yeah we know he’s the best rebounder in Baylor history… but he wants to be more than that. Rico is, as of after the Hardin-Baylor game, the team’s leading scorer at 15.7ppg. This won’t last but it’s a sign of how effective he’s been on the offensive side of the court.
C Johnathan Motley - Rim protection is at a premium in college basketball, and while the zone defense sometimes hinders stats for this type of player, Motley has been effective in altering shots. Offensively has some room to grow, but has shown flashes of being a potential 20-10 guy.
PG Jake Lindsey - Freshman can play?!?! Jake is a large guard at 6’5". Defensively strong paired with solid ball security and strong court vision? You’ll work your way into Scott Drew’s rotation.
SG Al Freeman - Doesn’t start, but leads the team in minutes played. A deadly combination of creation, deep shooting, and finishing at the rim, SAF glues this team together offensively in the small lineup.
C/PF Terry Maston - Does a little bit of everything; has lost some weight so more mobile. Can finish around the rim, grab a few boards, and gives us a very solid backup for Rico and JMot.
SG King McClure - Purest shooter Baylor has seen since Brady Heslip, but the game seems to be a tad fast for the freshman. Get him open in the corner though? (throws t-shirts into the ODB crowd)
How far can this team go?
I personally figure this team, by virtue of how strong the Big XII is this year, will probably hover around .500 in conference play.
The conference tournaments are always difficult to predict, but I expect this team to play their way into a safe berth in the NCAA Tournament in March.
How deep of a run can the Bears make? This is a really hard question to answer without seeding information, but I suspect this team is good enough to make the second weekend of the tournament without too much drama. After that? Nobody knows.
What does the ODB crowd think about this team so far this year? What are your expectations?